Houses seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) from gangland targets have been offered to local authorities rather than risking a potential new owner being intimidated by criminals for buying the property on the open market, the head of the bureau has said.
Det Chief Supt Pat Clavin said he was "absolutely astounded" at the number of drug dealers among the bureau's near 1,000 current targets.
“They are all over the country; not confined to one area,” he said. “There must be lots of people all over the country consuming drugs who don’t see themselves as part of a criminal enterprise.”
While violent criminals were often adept at intimidating people to get their way, Det Chief Supt Clavin said that when their most expensive assets were seized, Cab had a variety of ways of making use of them.
“Different assets have to be sold by us in different ways,” he said when asked if people were willing to buy assets seized from criminals.
He said care were sometimes “ re-registered” to ensure the former owners could never establish who had bought their vehicle.
“Very often we would offer a local authority-type house to a local authority. As you can imagine there is a shortage of homes in various areas. We trying to achieve the best outcome for an asset and that’s why at Cab we have an assets management office.”
He was speaking a day after Cab took possession of the former home of Liam Byrne on Raleigh Square in Crumlin, Dublin. The 38-year-old is the head of the Byrne organised crime group, which is effectively the Dublin-based branch of the Kinahan cartel.
Some €2.7 million in assets has been seized from Byrne and some of his associates. Byrne had spent some €700,000 extending and decorating the former local authority house. He had established a car sales business in Dublin allowing him to launder drug money and barter vehicles for drugs with other gangs.
Det Chief Supt Clavin said many of the luxury vehicles being examined during Cab investigations were registered under false names to disguise ownership.
“It appears to be very easy to register a car under a false name and/or under a false address,” he said.
He also suggested that many of the features of the Byrne case were common in other gangland inquiries carried out by Cab.
"We are concerned about criminals penetrating the high end second hand motor industry," he said. "And we can see there's a hugh increase in the number of secondhand cars being registered in Ireland. If that keeps going it will overtake the number of new cars being sold in the country."
He said Cab was also seizing houses, cash, crypto currency, money in bank accounts, gold coins, livestock, watches, overseas apartments and a racehorse on one ocassion. “One thing we find particularly telling is the number of modest homes with bullet proof windows and doors.”
Det Chief Supt Clavin said this was a major change compared to the organised crime scene when he joined the force.
"When I joined the police in the 1980s we were told there were two crime families in Ireland. One was called the Cahills and the other was called the Dunnes," he said, a refering to Martin Cahill and brothers Christy and Larry Dunne.
“The Cahills were involved in burglaries and robberies and the Dunnes were credited with bringing heroin into Ireland,” he said.
He was speaking at an EU anti-money laundering conference in Croke Park run by Compliance Ireland.