Se­cret codes re­veal smug­glers’ €100m

CAB break­through on ledgers found stashed in hot press

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Front Page - Maeve Shee­han

A SE­CRET coded ledger con­cealed in a hot press has re­vealed how one of Ire­land’s big­gest cross-bor­der crime gangs turned over a stag­ger­ing €100m in seven years.

The ledger, seized two years ago dur­ing a raid by the Crim­i­nal As­sets Bureau (CAB), was only re­cently “de­coded” by an­a­lysts who believe the en­crypted en­tries rep­re­sent thou­sands of cash trans­ac­tions. In­formed sources said the to­tal value of the trans­ac­tions was €100m over seven years.

The enor­mous prof­its earned by just one crim­i­nal gang has alarmed se­nior of­fi­cers and comes as se­cu­rity ex­perts warn that a hard Brexit risks in­creas­ing cross-bor­der crime.

Noel Cun­ning­ham, pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Garda Su­per­in­ten­dents, has pre­vi­ously warned more than 200 bor­der cross­ings would be­come “crime cor­ri­dors” in the event of a hard Brexit.

The CAB raided sev­eral premises linked to the crime gang last week. Sources said the raids were not linked to Brexit but they will be seen as a pre-emp­tive strike on the cross-bor­der gangs that trade in ev­ery­thing from smug­gled al­co­hol, cig­a­rettes, fuel and even Vi­a­gra, the erec­tile dys­func­tion drug.

The CAB has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing the crime gang for sev­eral years. But the “huge scale” of the gang’s op­er­a­tions and the vast sums of money it was deal­ing in only be­came clear when an­a­lysts ‘cracked’ the coded en­tries. “Lit­er­ally, the scale of the op­er­a­tion was enor­mous,” said a source.

The CAB be­lieves that the gang has been in­vest­ing the mas­sive prof­its in de­vel­op­ment sites in Ire­land and in the UK, and sus­pects that it has pur­chased an en­tire “ghost es­tate” in the Bor­der re­gion.

The empty hous­ing es­tate was iden­ti­fied by the CAB as part of a port­fo­lio of dis­tressed prop­er­ties it be­lieves the gang has pur­chased over the past seven to eight years.

Se­nior sources said the hous­ing es­tate is “small” and “un­fin­ished” and is close to the Bor­der and they believe it was pur­chased with the in­ten­tion of com­plet­ing the de­vel­op­ment be­fore sell­ing on the units for a sig­nif­i­cant profit.

While the im­pact of a hard Brexit on crime re­mains a se­ri­ous con­cern in Gov­ern­ment, the im­pli­ca­tions for the coun­try’s health ser­vice are also a worry.

The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent has learned that the avail­abil­ity of vi­tal can­cer drugs and other life-sav­ing medicines could be im­pacted by a nodeal Brexit.

The Gov­ern­ment is work­ing around-the-clock to en­sure Ir­ish pa­tients are not af­fected by de­lays in re­ceiv­ing medicine in the event of Bri­tain crash­ing out of the EU.

How­ever, Ire­land im­ports a huge range of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal drugs from Bri­tain and the Gov­ern­ment is most con­cerned over the avail­abil­ity of what are known as ‘just in time’ medicines. These drugs are man­u­fac­tured on de­mand due to their cost, have a short shelflife and can­not be stock­piled.

THE avail­abil­ity of vi­tal can­cer drugs and other life-sav­ing medicines could be im­pacted by a no-deal Brexit, the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent has learned.

The Gov­ern­ment is work­ing around-the-clock to en­sure Ir­ish pa­tients are not hit by de­lays in re­ceiv­ing medicine in the event of Bri­tain crash­ing out of the Euro­pean Union.

How­ever, Ire­land im­ports a huge range of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal drugs from Bri­tain and the Gov­ern­ment is most con­cerned over the avail­abil­ity of what are known as ‘just in time’ medicines.

These drugs are man­u­fac­tured on de­mand due to their cost and be­cause they are gen­er­ally tai­lored for spe­cific pa­tients. The drugs also have a short shelf-life and can­not be stock­piled.

The Cab­i­net will this week be briefed by Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris on the Gov­ern­ment’s Brexit con­tin­gency plans for medicines. It is un­der­stood the main con­cerns cen­tre on sup­ply chains for drugs and med­i­cal reg­u­la­tions which could hold up ac­cess.

The Gov­ern­ment has been work­ing closely with Brus­sels to en­sure EU phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal reg­u­la­tions do not pre­vent pa­tients from re­ceiv­ing the med­i­ca­tion they need as a re­sult of a no-deal Brexit.

A Gov­ern­ment source said: “Con­tin­gency plans for drugs are ad­vanced and we are not go­ing to have can­cer pa­tients with­out their drugs.

“Two years of work has gone into this and the EU is not go­ing to al­low pa­tients get sicker than they al­ready are be­cause of Brexit,” the source added.

An­other source said the Cab­i­net will be told they do not ex­pect gen­eral medicine short­ages in the short term as most com­pa­nies have be­tween 8-10 weeks’ re­serve of drugs. How­ever, the HSE and the Health Prod­ucts Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity are draft­ing con­tin­gency plans for a no-deal Brexit.

Rev­enue has also been de­vel­op­ing mea­sures to al­low the fast-track­ing of es­sen­tial drugs into the coun­try.

In­ter­na­tional pharma com­pa­nies have opened ‘shadow lab­o­ra­to­ries’ on con­ti­nen­tal Eu­rope which will be­gin man­u­fac­tur­ing vi­tal medicines in the event of Bri­tain leav­ing the EU with­out a trade deal.

Around 60pc of all drugs con­sumed in Ire­land are ei­ther im­ported from or pass through Bri­tain.

It has also emerged the Gov­ern­ment will seek fast­track ac­cess to ports in Calais, Dover and Holy­head in an at­tempt to re­duce de­lays for Ir­ish hauliers trav­el­ling through Bri­tain.

There are con­cerns that trucks car­ry­ing per­ish­able goods will be sig­nif­i­cantly im­pacted by de­lays at ports in France and Bri­tain.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have vis­ited Calais Port in France to ex­am­ine what mea­sures can be in­tro­duced to en­sure Ir­ish hauliers are not ad­versely af­fected by a no-deal Brexit.

Gov­ern­ment sources believe it highly un­likely Ir­ish truck­ers will be give pref­er­en­tial treat­ment in Bri­tish ports but may be given fast-track ac­cess in France.

Mean­while, Anna Maria An­ders, the Pol­ish sec­re­tary of state for in­ter­na­tional di­a­logue, has bro­ken ranks with Brus­sels over the EU’s re­fusal to of­fer con­ces­sions on the Brexit with­drawal agree­ment. In an in­ter­view with the Brexit-sup­port­ing Tele­graph, Ms An­ders said: “I think the bu­reau­cracy in Brus­sels has be­come a real is­sue... Right now they are re­fus­ing to com­pro­mise. Frankly, I just wish that we would get on with it.

“This pe­riod of uncer­tainty is a dis­as­ter. It is a dis­as­ter for ev­ery­body. It has weak­ened the lead­er­ship in this coun­try ter­ri­bly and peo­ple want to move on.”

Last Fri­day Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent JeanClaude Juncker said: “This is our fi­nal of­fer. We can add clar­i­fi­ca­tions but we will not rene­go­ti­ate. The choice is: ac­cept or re­ject it.”

But Ms An­ders said: “I think a lit­tle bit of give on Brus­sels’ part would be good. The prob­lem with Brus­sels and the EU gen­er­ally is the fact it is so dif­fer­ent to the way it was when Bri­tain first joined the EU.”

Ms An­ders, who was born in Lon­don, said the UK’s de­par­ture was “not go­ing to be great for Poland” be­cause it would “weaken the EU”. She said a sec­ond Brexit ref­er­en­dum would be the “worst case sce­nario” be­cause it would have to “start all over again”.

NO DE­LAYS: Si­mon Coveney

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.