Gardaí smash gang of ex-military Albanian burglars

A HIGHLY professional Albanian gang behind 50 successful burglaries across eight counties over an 18-month period has been smashed by gardaí.

10 gang members — from Albania or Kosovo — were arrested in a garda swoop and detained under powerful legislation allowing up to seven days’ detention.

The gang, containing former soldiers, was never caught or disturbed in any of the burglaries and gardaí said they dropped any target if they ever got “spooked”.

They engaged in lengthy planning in identifying and researching a potential target and used sophisticated technology to disable alarm systems.

Civilian crime analysts employed by gardaí played a key role in connecting clues from multiple crime scenes, across the south and south east, between October 2008 and May 2010.

Extensive surveillance was placed on gang members by gardaí over the last four months in particular.

Reflecting the money earned by the gang, the Criminal Assets Bureau is analysing a large volume of documentation and bank accounts taken in the 22 raids. In one raid alone, the outfit got away with €100,000 in cash. Many were claiming social welfare here.

Garda sources said their operation, code-named Crake, was “intelligence-led”, with considerable work done by the force’s civilian crime analysts.

“They looked at commonalities between crimes, helped identify links and identify the different gang members.”

He said this included trawling through the Garda Pulse computer system and other intelligence looking for links.

For example, they spotted that a similar car was used in separate burglaries in different counties.

They produced detailed charts for investigators showing the connections and where their local target fitted in with the gang.

Gardaí described the gang, aged between 30 and 44, as highly professional, with many ex-military from Albanian, Kosovan or Russian armies. They also had Albanian ex-police contacts and had gathered information on investigation techniques used by gardaí.

“They were not confronted in any of the burglaries,” said a garda source. “They did a lot of work staking out places. They made sure they were not disturbed and if they didn’t like something they walked away. It speaks volumes about how professional they were.”

Garda sources said, in some cases, the gang patiently dug through walls to gain access.

They disabled alarms, often by installing blockers to stop alarm signals from being transmitted.

Gardaí said they carried out burglaries of petrol stations and post offices in counties Carlow, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford.

Some suspects have been found with sophisticated false travel papers. Europol assisted gardaí in confirming identities and checking their status abroad. Gardaí hope to be in a position to recommend charges to the DPP by the end of the detention period.


Lifestyle

Wesley O’ Regan is the General Manager of Popscene in Voodoo Rooms, Cork city. Popscene opened last November and is Cork’s only themed bar that is dedicated to celebrating the best of the 80s and 90s. https://www.facebook.com/PopsceneCork/You've Been Served: Wesley O'Regan, Popscene

More From The Irish Examiner