The Criminal Assets Bureau is targeting the assets and incomes of the country’s seven biggest travelling gangs in a major crackdown.
Their hit list consists of three gangs in west Dublin, an international gang based in Limerick, a notorious family in Waterford, another outfit in Galway, and a seventh from the Midlands.
The impact of travelling burglary gangs, who have been terrorising large parts of the country, has become one of the biggest crime priorities for both Garda Commissioner Nóirín Ó Sullivan and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald in recent years.
It led to the establishment of national investigations against roaming gangs, first with Operation Fiacla in 2012 and, last November, with a intensified operation, codenamed Thor.
Thor is budgeted to run for three months, at which stage its continuance will be reviewed.
CAB boss Detective Chief Superintendent Eugene Corcoran said in recent years the “activities of travelling groups became a particular menace” and a primary focus for Garda operations. He said the publicity attached to some of the most terrifying of cases highlighted to everyone the danger the gangs posed.
“We are trying to concentrate our efforts on the groups causing particular concern,” Mr Corcoran told the Irish Examiner.
He said these amounted to about “six or seven” of the main travelling gangs. They include:
Chief Supt Corcoran said the gangs in west Dublin include a group that are “back and forth” to the city from other parts, highlighting the connections many of these gangs have in different parts of the country.
He said CAB investigators are targeting the gangs both under proceeds of crime legislation, which concerns the seizure of assets such as property, cars, and jewellery and also under Revenue acts, which allows for the taxing of income deemed to accrue from crime.
In addition, some of the gangs are being targeted under social welfare laws, with the possibility of reducing or stopping payments or demanding repayments.
Chief Supt Corcoran said it was not yet possible to estimate the value of assets they will seek to freeze, but said you “could be looking at several million” euro. He said it could be less, but also said it “could be a lot more”.
He added: “It’s very much a situation where we’re trying to identify assets and they are trying to conceal them. Our efforts will yield something, but may not yield as much as we would ideally like.”
The CAB boss said that they had to compile a case that will “convince the court of evidential links”.
He said the assets would be mostly property and vehicles, the latter often in the form of frequent purchase and changing of vehicles. Chief Supt Corcoran said some of the gangs had also “bought up land”.
He said the vehicles are often bought in the name of younger members of the family.
He said cash can also be dispersed throughout a wider family. Many of the investigations are continuing into this year.
His comments follow the publication of the CAB 2014 annual report on Thursday, which showed a 140% jump in the value of assets seized, from €2.8m in 2013 to €6.76m in 2014.
This included €6.2m in cash/finances, €447,000 in property, €76,500 in vehicles and €17,000 in jewellery.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved