Gardaí suspect that a “huge seizure” of cash — €350,000 in vacuum-packed bags — was about to be smuggled abroad to pay for a massive drugs or firearms shipment.
Officers believe the haul comprised cash contributions from a consortium of organised criminal gangs who had clubbed together.
It is understood at least some of the criminals behind the operation have connections with the Kinahan crime cartel, which is linked to six murders in its feud with the Hutch gang.
Sources said this was a “rare” example of an operation hitting the “funding side” of the enterprise. Gardaí said that “a lot of crime” would have been carried out to come up with such an amount of cash.
Sources said these gangs “hate losing hard cash” and that the seizure represented a “huge success” for gardaí.
The operation was part of ongoing investigations targeting criminal activity in the Dublin region by the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
The unit conducted a coordinated operation on a number of vehicles on the M1 motorway, just north of Swords, north Dublin, on Tuesday evening.
A Garda spokesman said that during the operation €350,000 in cash was seized and that three men in their 40s were arrested.
“The cash was in vacuum packs in a hold-all bag,” said the spokesman.
He said follow-up searches were conducted in a number of areas, with the assistance of gardaí from the Dublin region and the Cavan district.
This resulted in the seizure of a vacuum-packing machine and associated equipment at an address in Tallaght, south-west Dublin.
Zopiclone tablets, which are hypnotic drugs, with an estimated value of over €10,000, were also seized.
Sources said the three arrested are “up to their eyes” in criminal activity and trusted lieutenants in crime gangs.
“You don’t give €350,000 to runners. You need trusted people, who will keep the cash secure and their mouths shut,” said one source.
Gardaí said it was “unusual” to find such an amount of cash in one place and suspect it was going to be moved abroad.
“It would be quadrupled in value in the drugs bought with it or it could have been also used to buy firearms,” said a source. “It wasn’t going to be lodged in a bank, that’s for sure.”
The source said it was “not uncommon” for major gangs to join forces for large shipments.
“Getting people hands-on with large amounts of cash is a huge success for gardaí. Criminal gangs hate losing hard cash.”
Separately, gardaí uncovered a large cannabis factory in south Dublin, and seized 1,100 plants, with an estimated value of €500,000, in a house in Shankill.
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