Gardaí land ready made list of suspects after seizing catalytic converters

Detective’s hunch prompted search of van in which large haul was discovered

Gardaí recovered €10,000 in cash from man driving van as well as a list  detailing where he had collected 400 catalytic converters. Photograph: iStock

Gardaí recovered €10,000 in cash from man driving van as well as a list detailing where he had collected 400 catalytic converters. Photograph: iStock

 

A chance decision by a garda detective to stop a van in Co Wicklow has resulted in an international investigation into suspected catalytic converter theft after the chief suspect was found with a list of his suppliers on his person.

The suspect was carrying a list detailing where he had collected 400 catalytic converters worth up to €400,000, based on Garda valuations for stolen convertors.

Gardaí from the Wicklow Detective Unit searched the van and found the haul after the driver was stopped based on a hunch of one of the detectives.

The list the suspect was carrying contained the details of more than 20 people in the Republic who had supplied him with catalytic convertors.

Thefts of convertors have surged to unprecedented levels over the past two years as the market price of the precious metals in the convertors has soared. There were 1,014 thefts in the first 9½ months of last year compared to just 96 in 2018.

The driver of the van arrested in Wicklow, who is from Lithuania, had driven from Louth to Clare making collections on the day he was stopped. He was arrested on suspicion the catalytic converters he was carrying were stolen. Over €10,000 cash was seized from him.

The list of his suppliers and collection points was taken by gardaí as evidence. Gardaí are now investigating every person on the list to determine their role, if any, in stealing catalytic converters or trading in stolen converters.

Gardaí have established the suspect arrested in Wicklow works for a UK company dealing in scrap metals. They believe the converters were being collected in Ireland, with the intention of bringing them to the UK for smelting so the valuable metals in the converters could be extracted.

When gardaí contacted police in the UK, they were already aware of the company the man was working for and were examining it. Detectives in the Republic are also investigating suspected links between the UK firm and a company in north Dublin linked to the seizure of over 2,000 catalytic converters by gardaí earlier this year.

However, gardaí say the investigations are complex and time consuming as most individuals and companies suspected of trading in stolen convertors are also involved in legitimate transactions.

The same sources said it was very difficult to link a seized convertor to a specific vehicle to determine if it was stolen or legitimate scrap.

However, the suspect arrested in Wicklow and those in the separate case in Dublin were under investigation under both criminal legislation and waste management laws.

The Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities (Werla), which enforces waste management laws, are also involved in the investigations with An Garda Síochána.