CAB targets your local crime gang
The asset-seizing agency has travelled the country, urging people to shop criminals in their areas, says Maeve Sheehan
THE Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) has identified hundreds of small-time criminals and rural crime gangs in every county.
The CAB’s national clampdown on illicit wealth flaunted by criminals follows a nationwide campaign urging communities to inform on individuals who are living the high life without any visible means of support.
Now CAB officers have drawn up a detailed list of suspects, from four suspected criminals in Mayo, believed to have carried out a spate of robberies in the region, to 40 suspects in Wexford, where Dublin gangsters keep holiday homes.
The initiative was launched in response to demands for “mini-CABs” in communities across Ireland — bolstered by the agency’s new powers to seize assets worth €5,000.
There are also new targets in regions hit by farm thefts, such as Tipperary, where the assets of 29 suspects are now under investigation. There are also 20 suspects in the Carlow/Kilkenny Garda division.
Limerick has the highest number of CAB targets outside of Dublin, with the homes, cars and assets of 73 suspected criminals under scrutiny.
Another 30 suspects have been pinpointed in the combined area covering Cork City, West Cork and Cork North.
Chief Superintendent Pat Clavin, who heads the CAB, embarked on a tour of Garda divisions, addressing 35 local authority Joint Policing Committees and armed with a glossy brochure outlining the new initiative.
“Your neighbour drives an expensive car, spends lots of money on home improvements and can afford to give their family the most expensive gifts.
“Money is no object, yet they never appear to work. Contact the CAB today so we can make them pay and take it away,” the CAB states.
THE Criminal Assets Bureau has drawn up a hit-list of small-town crooks and rural crime gangs in counties across Ireland following a nationwide campaign urging communities to shop their local criminals.
The assets-seizing agency is more usually associated with targeting major organised crime gangs such as the Kinahan cartel. But following a 12-month tour of each Garda division, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) has generated targets in every county and searches in several.
They include four suspects in Mayo who are thought to be behind a spate of burglaries in the county.
There are also new targets in regions hit by farm thefts, such as Tipperary, where the assets of 29 suspects are now under investigation, and 20 suspects in the Carlow/Kilkenny Garda division.
Limerick has the highest number of CAB targets outside of Dublin, with the homes, cars and assets of 73 suspected criminals under scrutiny of the agency.
Wexford has also yielded a high number of targets, given the size of the county. The CAB is looking at 40 suspects here compared with the 30 suspects in the combined Garda divisions of Cork City, West Cork and Cork North.
The CAB zoned in on lower-rung street dealers and house burglars in response to demands from community groups in Dublin’s inner city and in rural area for “mini-CABS” to target the criminals and drug dealers living among them.
Chief Superintendent Pat Clavin, who heads the Bureau, embarked on a tour of Garda divisions this time last year, addressing 35 local authority Joint Policing Committees in each division on the work of the CAB, armed with a glossy brochure bluntly inviting communities to deliver up suspects.
“Your neighbour drives an expensive car, spends lots of money on home improvements and can afford to give their family the most expensive gifts. Money is no object, yet they never appear to work.
“It is commonly suspected that they are involved in making false personal injury claims, falsely claiming social welfare payments, and boasting about never having paid tax,” the brochure said. “Contact the CAB today so we can make them pay and take it away.”
Chief Supt Clavin has one outstanding Joint Policing Committee left to visit in Tullamore, Co Offaly, to which he is scheduled to speak next month but is effectively at the end of the process.
The result is that the target list that stood at 600 in 2016 is now stands at 934, with 475 of those targets based in counties outside Dublin.
According to Chief Supt Clavin, the increase is in part due to calls coming in from members of the public.
The number of targets in Wexford stood at 33 in May, when he addressed the county’s Joint Policing Committee meeting and now stands at 40.
The CAB has also stepped up its focus on burglars. The numbers of suspected thieves and fraudsters targeted for tax assessments increased from 11 last year to 19 so far this year, who are facing potential tax bills of €5.8m.
“Outside the M50 there is a whole other world,” said Chief Supt Clavin. “People are concerned about rural burglaries because they perceive themselves to be at risk. The Byrnes [organised crime gang] and the Kinahans are in a world far removed from them. But they are afraid of the marauding burglary and robbery gangs, because they feel that they are a real threat.”
While the big organised crime gangs may hog the headlines, he said, the harm caused to communities by local crime is “huge”.
Fear is a big factor, he says. Even for those who have never been burgled, the fear of crime can be just as paralysing, as can the fear of intimidation.
“Criminals like to live in their own communities,” he said. “They can show off in their own communities. There’s no point in them living in Foxrock, where everyone drives around in their expensive SUVs. They have an impact in their own communities. They know that they can exert subtle intimidation on local people.”
Intimidation of families was a recurring theme in the CAB’s tour. It was raised with Chief Supt Clavin in Carlow last month by Fianna Fail Senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor, who said that families in the town “have had to pay out money because their children have got in with a bad crowd, they have been threatened and things have happened, and then the families are having to pay out money. Yet the people who are selling the drugs seem to be getting away with it”.
It was a similar story in Laois, where the CAB has 14 targets in its sights. Noel Tuohey, a Labour Party councillor and a former prison officer who is on the Joint Policing Committee, said several families have come to him, in his capacity as councillor, including one mother whom he says took out a credit union loan on the pretext of buying a car but used the money to pay off criminals chasing her son for drugs debts.
“In most cases I’ve heard of, that is the first they knew their child was doing drugs, when they get into bother, they get in over their heads. He could have started off working and afford to pay what he is using. But then he is using more.
“They give you a bit of lead, they give you a little bit of rope, and then suddenly they call him back and instead of €200 he owes €2,000,” he said.
“It’s brilliant that the CAB is going after them,” he said. “What they [families] should really do is go to the police but to be totally honest, I can understand how some of them wouldn’t.
“These are people’s sons, they have a child in trouble, that’s the way they see it. If they don’t get the money together, that child could be badly beaten, or it could be another member of the family.”
Following a Government commitment to setting up “mini-CABs” in communities in its policy programme, the Criminal Assets Bureau is training up 350 asset profilers in each Garda division.
Their profiles of potential local targets are sent to the CAB headquarters, where they are assessed for full investigation by one of six dedicated teams.
The Government also lowered the value of assets that the CAB is entitled to seize from a threshold of €13,000 to €5,000, which the CAB has now used in 11 Proceeds of Crime applications.
Financial investigations are time-consuming but there have been a number of searches in several counties, including Sligo, Tipperary, Clare, Limerick and Donegal.
One of the most significant operations has been taking place in Wexford where 13 members of the same crime gang were served with tax demands of around €4m.
The CAB has seized cash watches, jewellery, designer handbags, garden equipment, 65-inch televisions, storage devices, mobile phones and electronic equipment.
One of the things that surprised Chief Supt Clavin was how little people knew about the Criminal Assets Bureau’s work or that its agents could be deployed in local areas.
“People don’t know a lot about CAB or that you can ring them up and actually speak to someone in CAB. We actively answer the phone,” he said. “There is a huge misperception out there that we are working only with the Kinahans.
“Drugs, burglaries, robberies around the country, farm thefts — we will take on criminality in its widest sense.”
‘Criminals like to live in their communities, where they can show off’