Gardaí seize 300 catalytic converters during Dublin raid

Precious metals in the devices have surged in value, leading to a sharp escalation in thefts

Some of the 300 stolen catalytic converters seized by gardaí.

Some of the 300 stolen catalytic converters seized by gardaí.

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Gardaí have made their biggest seizure to date of catalytic converters after finding some 300 devices during a Dublin search operation.

It is the second significant seizure of its kind in recent months, is valued at about €150,000 and weighs in at 1,275kg. The latest find comes after the discovery of 100 converters in another Garda raid on premises in Co Meath last February.

Gardaí have stepped up their response to this type of theft as the crime has soared, mostly in Dublin, over the last two years.

In the latest operation, gardaí recovered the converters after searching a property in St Margaret’s, north Co Dublin, on Wednesday.

The search was carried out by Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) Divisional Crime Task Force and was based on intelligence gathered during recent investigations.

The force said that “at approximately 10am yesterday, gardaí attached to the DMR Divisional Crime Task Force searched a business premises in St Margaret’s, Co Dublin, under warrant. They were assisted by personnel from Ballymun Garda station, Fingal County Council and a Customs and Revenue Officer and dog handler. The search was conducted as part of the ongoing investigation into the theft of catalytic converters throughout the Dublin Metropolitan Region and subsequent regions.”

As the operation was under way a man drove into the area being searched and, on inspection, his vehicle was found to have no tax or insurance, resulting in its seizure under section 41 of the Road Traffic Act.

No arrests were made but the investigation into the origins of the converters, and who was responsible for gathering so many in one place, is continuing.

Valuable components

In 2017 just 79 converter thefts were recorded, increasing to 96 in 2018. But in 2019 the crime increased exponentially in the Republic with 989 thefts recorded.

The latest data, for 2020, shows 1,014 thefts recorded in the first 9½ months of last year. Some 75 per cent of the crimes in 2020 were recorded in Dublin.

The converters comprise a honeycomb structure, designed to cleanse engine fumes as they pass through the exhaust. The metal components – platinum, palladium and rhodium – have surged in value, meaning their scrap-metal worth is now high. There is also a market for converters to be used in other cars.

They can be sold individually on the black market for between €300 and €600, though in one case that reached the courts in recent years the suspect had stolen 20 converters which the court valued at €20,000.

Gardaí believes thieves are carrying out surveillance on residential streets as well as public car parks, golf clubs, offices and hotels to identify potential targets.