Seven suspected members of gang arrested


SUSPECTED MEMBERS of one of the Republic’s most prolific robbery gangs were in Garda custody last night after a series of dawn raids by an armed Garda and Revenue team in counties Laois and Carlow.

A total of seven people were arrested and were being questioned under anti-gangland legislation introduced in recent years.

The gang, the nucleus of which is made up of a Carlow-based family, are suspects for an estimated 70 robberies in the southeast in the last year, with some raids involving victims being tied up and threatened with firearms.

Some 60 gardaí were involved in co-ordinated raids on 10 houses and apartments including teams involved in the investigation of organised crime in the Garda’s southeastern region and detectives from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, all backed by armed members of the regional support unit.

The seven men arrested range in age from late teens to their 30s and are being held at Garda stations in Carlow, Kilkenny, Thomastown and Thurles. During the operation gardaí seized a gun with a silencer and scope and a small number of cannabis plants.

The inquiry into the activities of the gang – known as the “hole in the wall gang” because of their efforts to rob bank machines – has been ongoing since late last year. Before yesterday’s operation gardaí had discovered warehouses in Co Carlow where 4x4 vehicles and heavy plant machinery stolen by the gang were recovered.

Others items found included the remains of safes stolen from commercial premises and driven away on JCBs that had been rammed through walls to get to them.

The gang are the chief suspects for a botched robbery in April 2010 on the Bank of Ireland in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, in which a JCB was used to smash an ATM from a wall. The robbery was disturbed when gardaí arrived but had their patrol car rammed by the gang as they escaped.

The group is also believed to have been behind the theft of a post office safe from Castlecomer in Co Kilkenny last October. A digger was used to break through the walls of the building, almost demolishing it.

The gang is also suspected of raids on pubs in Carlow over the past year in which staff were tied up and threatened with firearms before money was taken. Gardaí believe they have been involved in breaking into other cash businesses via the roof and taking money and small safes.

The men arrested yesterday are being held under section 50 of the Offences Against the State Act and can be held for up to seven days without charge.