Fears rise over Cork clothes collection gangs

SENIOR gardaí fear “a bloodbath” may ensue following attacks on a Cork-based gang which controls most of the estimated nationwide “€1 million a week” export of used clothing to eastern Europe.

Tit-for-tat fire-bombings on vans controlled by three different groups from eastern Europe involved in used clothing collections have put gardaí on alert to a possible escalation of the dispute.

The so-called Godfather Gang, based in Cork, has up to 30 vans and trucks operating around the country and a chain of “supposed legitimate high street stores” in the Baltic states which sell the clothes, much of which come from householders who think they are leaving them out for bona fide charities or aid organisations.

“The profit from exporting these clothes is huge. We have intelligence which points to a 40ft trailer full of clothes being worth around €35,000 in eastern European markets.

“A trailer going to the African market which is full of clothes, shoes and handbags is worth €90,000,” said a senior Garda source.

He confirmed the main gang running the operation is based on the southside of Cork. It has smaller rivals and affiliates based in Cork city, north Cork and Waterford.

Gangs also have subordinate operatives collecting in Dublin and other parts of the country.

Several clashes have occurred recently between the gangs, including a pitched-battle between combatants armed with baseball bats and hurleys on the South Ring Road. It subsequently went quiet but in the past few days gangrivals have fire-bombed vans.

On October 14 three vans belonging to one gang were hit by arsonists on the southside of the city and two were burned out in Waterford.

On Sunday night two more vehicles were fire-bombed on the southside of Cork city, which gardaí believe was a retaliatory attack.

“Most of these so-called clothes collection vans are out on the road between 2am and 8am picking up clothes left outside households. When they get the clothes they are exported where they are cleaned, pressed and resold on as new or virtually new,” said the Garda source.

Gardaí are so concerned about potential escalations in violence they are urging householders not to put out clothing bags for collection, even though they may be placed in bags marked for reputable charities.

In many cases the gangs are taking them, even though they are marked for legitimate aid charities.

“We urge people not to leave bags out for collection on their doorsteps. Instead we want them, if at all possible, to take the bags directly to the charities’ shops or leave them at designated bins or pick-up points.”

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