The Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) has carried out a series of co-ordinated raids against a crime gang in the southeast, seizing documentation in a bid to uncover its wealth and money-laundering network.
Gardaí believe the Carlow-based gang has followed its Dublin counterparts in becoming involved in the motor trade as a front for criminal activity.
Acting on intelligence gathered during a number of investigations into the group, it moved against it on Thursday by searching seven premises including solicitors’ and accountants’ offices.
A large amount of documentation was seized as well as computers and they will now be examined in a bid to determine the gang’s levels of investment and whether members have laundered cash through car garages in the southeast.
Three private residences were among the properties raided on foot of search warrants, with a team of Cab officers assisted in the surprise raids by local gardaí, including the Carlow Detective Unit.
The raids form part of an emerging pattern by Cab in targeting lower value assets and also gangs operating outside of the greater Dublin area.
Garda sources said the leaders of the gang had been “living lavish lifestyles far beyond legal means” and that plans to target their assets and “generally get into their faces” dated back to the summer months.
An estimated 45 Garda personnel were involved on Thursday. Sources said it was crucial the community saw units such as Cab targeting regional gangs.
In August, new legislative provisions were introduced by Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald on the recommendation of senior Garda management allowing for criminal assets of a lower monetary value to be seized.
A key part of the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act lowered the threshold monetary value of a criminal asset that could be targeted to just €5,000, from €13,000.
Socially deprived areas
That change was seen as very significant, because mid-ranking or even street-level drug dealers and travelling burglary gangs were buying assets, from cars to expensive jewellery, and creating anger in communities, particularly in socially deprived areas.
Garda sources said while the new provisions were not needed on Thursday, the operation was typical of raids that would now regularly take place and under which the new provisions would be used to seize assets unexpectedly from criminals.
Under the new provisions, the lower value assets can be seized for an initial 24-hour period, which can be extended to 21 days with the approval of the head Garda officer in Cab - a role now filled by Det Chief Supt Pat Clavin.
The 21-day period is designed to give the bureau time to research the origins of the seized asset before going before the High Court to begin confiscation proceedings, at the end of which the assets become the property of the State and are auctioned.