The Criminal Assets Bureau (the Cab) launched a recent rapid response operation after a tip-off received by a member of the public and seized a criminal's new €80,000 car within hours. It is just one example of the speed with which the Cab can act, head of the bureau Det Chief Supt Michael Gubbins has said.
Speaking at an event in Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, to mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the bureau, Mr Gubbins said concerned citizens continued to contact the Cab three or four times a week. They did so by phone, email or messaging the bureau on its social media channels.
He encouraged more people to come forward with information about suspects in their areas, saying it would be acted upon swiftly wherever appropriate. He cited the example of the recent tip-off received about a criminal that directly resulted in his €80,000 car being seized “by that evening”.
However, he declined to be drawn on whether leading criminal figures from the Kinahan cartel based abroad were currently under investigation.
“I’d rather not go into who they are or where they are. Generally our targets only become aware of us when we arrive at their door in the early hours of the morning,” he said.
Since the bureau began operating on October 15th, 1996, some €199 million in cash and other assets – including property – has been confiscated from criminals. The bureau has had 1,851 targets, including 35 living outside the Republic.
Many well-known figures have made tax-related or other financial settlements with the bureau, or have had their properties and other assets seized. They include: suspected armed robber Gerry Hutch (58); Kinahan cartel ally Liam Byrne (40); former Provisional IRA chief of staff Thomas "Slab" Murphy (72); former gang leader John Gilligan (69); former minister for justice Ray Burke (78).
The bureau became operational 25 years ago in the wake of revulsion over the murder of Det Garda Jerry McCabe by the IRA in Adare, Co Wicklow, in June 1996, and the murder of crime journalist Veronica Guerin just weeks later by the John Gilligan gang.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said at yesterday's event that the murders had combined to create a "seminal" moment for law enforcement in the Republic, leading to a "step change of new proportions". He said a central part of that change was the creation of the Cab, aimed at denying criminals the profits of their crimes.
The bureau was established as part of a major crackdown against organised crime at the time and was seen as the first real recognition by the Garda and Government that the Republic had an organised crime problem that had significantly worsened.
While a small number of select veteran criminals were targeted in the early years of the bureau, the Cab’s operations have expanded rapidly and it now has 99 staff compared to 31 back in 1996.
It has also trained gardaí across the country to work as assets profilers – identifying signs of unexplained wealth in their communities and nominating targets to be investigated by the Cab. In 2004 there were 25 assets profilers within the Garda force nationwide, though that has increased to 553 profilers at present.
Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys described the bureau as “one of the great success stories in Irish law enforcement”.