Crime gang suspected of buying up ghost estate
CAB smashes border republican criminals involved in smuggling of cigarettes and alcohol
A DISSIDENT republican crime gang, with a staggering €100m cash turnover, is the suspected owner of a halfbuilt ghost estate close to the border that was snapped up during the bust.
The empty housing estate was identified by the Criminal Assets Bureau as part of a portfolio of distressed properties which it believes the smuggling 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.
The other properties in the gang’s portfolio are believed to include land and development sites in border counties, rather than one-off residential homes.
The Criminal Assets Bureau, backed up by the Emergency Response Unit, raided eight homes and businesses linked to the gang in early morning raids last week, seizing computers, mobile phones, cash and smuggling paraphernalia. The CAB is investigating the gang’s ownership of properties with the aim of confiscating the assets as the proceeds to crime.
The gang is one of the biggest operating along the border and is primarily involved in cigarette and alcohol smuggling. It is led by a 62-year-old convicted IRA man with a history of smuggling, and who has addresses in the republic and Northern Ireland.
While investigations into the gang have been continuing for several years, the scale of its smuggling operations emerged only recently after analysts ‘cracked’ coded entries in a ledger.
The ledger was concealed in the hot press of a house linked to another gang member, which CAB raided more than two years ago. The ledger contained hundreds of apparently indecipherable entries that were eventually decoded by forensic accountants and analysts.
The figures related to cash transactions dating back more than seven years that showed cash movements of €100m during that period, sources said.
The analysis revealed the “huge scale” of the organised crime gang’s operations and the vast sums of money it was dealing in, said one source. “Literally, the scale of the operations was enormous.”
Republican crime gangs have a history of investing the profits from racketeering into property.
Leaked US diplomatic cables claimed that the IRA used the Celtic Tiger to diversify into “more sophisticated business enterprises” by buying up properties in London, Dublin and Spanish resorts, turning into “apparently respectable businessmen”. The IRA’s financial empire also included pubs, security firms, taxi companies and hotels.
The dissident republican gang at the centre of last week’s raids is believed to have invested cash in post-crash property development opportunities rather than residential homes. The investments are typically bought using a web of front companies or individuals unconnected to the gang.
The funds were originally generated from robberies, with the cash then used as “seed capital” for funding shipments of illegal cigarettes, a vastly profitable crime that has cost the Exchequer millions in lost taxes.
The CAB searched six homes and two businesses in Monaghan and Cavan hoping to find records of property transactions linked to the gang’s key player, the 62-yearold convicted IRA man, and his associates.
Dozens of records and electronic devices seized, the officers also discovered €10,000 in cash concealed in a secret compartment, and quantities of the erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra, that sources said were “too large for personal consumption”. They also seized cigarette smuggling paraphernalia — believed to be the gang’s main source of income.
The next stage of the CAB’s investigation will focus on gathering evidence to link the properties to the gang’s key players, by analysing the documents and transaction records.
SEIZED: CAB raided homes and businesses in Monaghan and found quantities of cash, computers and mobile phones