Car dealer raided by armed gardai says he is victim of a vendetta
A CAR DEALER who had 14 "suspected stolen" vehicles seized by armed gardai claims today he is the innocent victim of a vicious business vendetta - and claimed some of the vehicles were owned by a mysterious Russian.
Edward 'Sonny' Stokes told the Sunday World that he had papers proving ownership of two of the vehicles, Alexander Dziubinski who works alongside him had papers for three more, while various other vehicles belonged to a Russian man also renting space from him.
Gardai seized the vehicles as part of "Operation Butler" which targets the sale and importation of stolen cars.
Speaking at his premises in Ferskill, Longford, Sonny – the owner of Granard 4X4 and Car Sales – told how:
- Gardai armed with sub-machine guns stood guard at the front of his yard while social welfare and Revenue officers seized the vehicles;
- He believes authorities were contacted and told to carry out the raid because he was giving customers a better deal on vehicles;
- He is standing over ownership of two of the vehicles, which he personally purchased from British Car auctions in the UK;
- His reputation has been damaged and he wants a 'full apology' when his vehicles are returned to him.
"I wouldn't go out deliberately to buy a wrong motor and sell it to anybody," Sonny told us.
"Without a doubt, I think someone contacted the gardai because I was giving customers a better deal than other garages.
The Granard yard where Sonny and Alex keep their motors
"A couple of grand cheaper – we've no overheads, we bring them in from England, clean them up and put them on the front line and take a small cut on them.
"I would imagine that's it – I can't think of any other reason.
Asked whether all the vehicles seized were his, Sonny said they were not.
"It's complicated, because some of the yard is rented by different people.
"But I can honestly tell you now that anything that was owned by me I can account for 100 per cent.
"Two of the motors taken were mine.
"I'm on my way into the garda station now, I won't get them back today but I'm going in because I want them back," he said on Sunday.
"They took 14 motors and some of those are cars I knew nothing about.
"Some belonged to Alex, and he has papers for those, and some belonged to a Russian fella – but I can't vouch for those."
"And some were out of Longford and I don't know who owned them.”
The cars were seized as part of a major garda operation, codenamed "Operation Butler", which lead to searches in Longford, Cavan and Tallaght – as well as Sonny's yard in Granard.
As well as 14 vehicles taken from Granard, gardai also seized laptops, phones and cash.
In total, 60 officers took part in the simultaneous searches at six different premises. A number of engines were also taken for examination.
It is believed that gardai are investigating if mileage had been altered on a number of the vehicles in order to drive up the price.
Asked whether his reputation has suffered in the wake of the raids, Sonny said: "Yeah absolutely, I've had no calls. Calls have really lightened off.
"But a lot of people know me, I'm dealing 25 years and they know that wouldn't be my kind of thing.
"That day was embarrassing, because when they came here there was two guys standing out there at the gate armed with submachine guns.
"And there were patrol cars with the blue flashing lights, people driving past would've thought there was a shooting.
"I had to go down to them and say 'do you think this lad here (gesturing to his nine-year-old son) is going to pull a gun and shoot you so?' – they put them away after that."
Polish national Alexander – who said he is one of the men renting space from Sonny – confirmed he had three vans taken in the raid.
He told the Sunday World that he had papers proving purchase and ownership of all three cars.
"What wasn't put out there is that the gardai examined 25 more cars in the yard and none of them were taken," Sonny continued.
"They didn't just come and seize a whole yard full of drugs.
"When they were doing the job I was asked to sit in the house, I wasn't given a chance to explain about each motor as they were taking it.
"I've been told the investigation is going to take six weeks and at the end of that I would like an apology."
In a statement to the Sunday World, gardai confirmed the vehicles had been seized as a part of an intelligence operation targeting the theft of vehicles in the Granard and Longford Districts.
"This was a multi-agency operation which involved officers from the Department of Social Welfare Customs and Excise," the statement said.