Crime gangs using car garages to smuggle drugs and valuables
Increasingly sophisticated practice exploits lack of regulation in the used car market
Cash seized in Wexford town on Saturday. Photograph: Garda Press Office
A network of car garages in Ireland and the UK is being used by drugs gangs to pay each other for consignments of drugs and to launder the proceeds of their dealing, gardaí believe.
The practice has become increasingly sophisticated in recent years. Gardaí are concerned that gangs are exploiting the lack of regulation in the used car market.
However, the head of the Criminal Assets Bureau, Det Chief Supt Pat Clavin, said gang members were continuing to flaunt their wealth and, in doing so, were drawing attention and aiding the Garda’s pursuit of them.
Mr Clavin said the bureau was determined to seize even modest assets, and there was a trebling in the number of seizures last year. The laws had been changed to allow his unit target assets valued as low as €5,000, rather than the previous €13,000 minimum valuation.
Some crime gangs were seeking to smuggle their wealth out of the country by buying expensive cars and jewellery and bringing the assets abroad on a car ferry. However, the new provisions enabled Cab to seize those assets before they could be taken out of the country and sold.
He said his unit targets not only Dublin-based drugs gangs but also gangs carrying out robberies around the State on homes, farms and commercial premises.
He added there were now 345 assets profilers – including gardaí, Revenue and social welfare officials – trained to gather information about unexplained wealth with a view to Cab investigating.
Det Chief Supt Clavin said he had visited joint policing committees in the State to explain how the bureau was targeting lower tier criminals nationwide. As part of the new drive to modernise and reach out to communities, Cab has established Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Meanwhile, the value of cash seized in Wexford and Dublin this week has been put at almost €1.8 million. Some of the cash was seized during a suspected handover of money in Wexford town on Saturday morning and three people were arrested.
One of the men detained is from west Dublin and when his house was searched more than €800,000 was found vacuum-packed in the attic. A camper van was also searched in Wexford on Saturday, in which about €600,000 was found. Two other people were arrested.
The operation was run by the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau. It has seized €8 million in cash since its inception three years ago.
Gardaí believe some of the money seized at the weekend was being readied to be taken out of the country, perhaps in the camper van.
They believe a lot of the money is owned by the Kinahan gang. However, another faction made up of members of the Traveller community is also believed to own a portion of the money.
Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, who is in charge of special crime operations, said the Garda’s targeting of the gangs involved in the feud had been relentless and would remain so.
The policing of the feud has also resulted in Garda interventions in 57 cases where gardaí believed there was an immediate risk of a murder. In many of those cases arrests were made and firearms found. Since the feud began some 87 firearms related to the violence have been seized.