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CAT criminals Around 300 catalytic converters seized in north Dublin raid as gardaí close in on master criminal ‘The Smelter’

The Smelter’ does not have any serious criminal convictions but has been a major target for gardai for years who have investigated him in a number of organised stolen car probes

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Some of the catalytic converters seized. Photo: An Garda Síochána

Some of the catalytic converters seized. Photo: An Garda Síochána

Some of the catalytic converters seized. Photo: An Garda Síochána

Around 300 catalytic converters were seized during a garda search operation in north Dublin yesterday as gardai continue to attempt to build a case against the master criminal known as ‘The Smelter.’

The criminal who is aged in his 50’s is suspected of being the “go-to-guy” for thugs who have been involved in a nationwide spree of stealing catalytic convertors from vehicles.

The catalytic converter is a section of a vehicle’s exhaust where gases from the engine are passed over and through a metal that breaks down pollutants within and CAT’s as they known have become rich pickings for organised criminals worldwide because as gardai warn, the items “cannot be uniquely traced to one vehicle.”

The CAT’s contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium which are then brought by the gangs who have been stealing them from vehicles to specialist metal refiners who can extract the precious metals inside.

Senior sources say that one particular middle-aged criminal has built up a reputation as the ‘Master Smelter.’

“He operates out of at least three counties and he is the man that the CAT’S generally end up with as he has the expertise to extract the precious metals which are then often legitimately shipped out of the country,” a senior source explained.

“Apart from Dublin he has bases along the border and in the midlands – the criminals who are coming to him with the convertors are actually getting very little cash out of the enterprise than what he is,” the source added.

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A vehicle which had no tax or insurance was also seized during the operation

A vehicle which had no tax or insurance was also seized during the operation

A vehicle which had no tax or insurance was also seized during the operation

Depending on the type of catalytic convertor, there can be up to seven grams of precious metals in the CAT and the criminals can get anything between €100 to €300 for each unit they steal and then sell on.

‘The Smelter’ does not have any serious criminal convictions but has been a major target for gardai for years who have investigated him in a number of organised stolen car probes.

“He has connections to a number of organised burglary gangs and is someone who has been in the game for a long time – he is making a fortune,” the source pointed out.

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Gardai announced details of Wednesday’s search operation in which they said they “seized 300 catalytic convertors weighing a total of 1275kg with an estimated value of €150,000.”

There were no arrests in the operation and while one vehicle that arrived at the premises was seized for not having tax or insurance, another suspect vehicle that drove near the location sped away when they saw the large garda presence there according to sources.

“At approximately 10am yesterday morning, Gardaí attached to the DMR Divisional Crime Task Force searched a business premises in St. Margaret's, Co. Dublin under warrant,” a garda spokeswoman said.

“They were assisted by personnel from Ballymun Garda station, Fingal County Council and a Customs and Revenue Officer and dog handler.

“The search was conducted as part of the ongoing investigation into the theft of catalytic converters throughout the Dublin Metropolitan Region and subsequent regions,” she added.

There were around 1,400 cases of CAT theft recorded nationwide last year with over 100 of these happening already this year.

Senior sources are concerned that this figure may be “just the tip of the iceberg” as it is estimated that many victims of this type of crime do not report it to gardai as they may not be even aware that their vehicle has been targeted.

One of the big problems facing gardai is that the criminals involved in this type of crime can remove the CAT from the vehicle in the space of just two minutes and sources say that it is “virtually impossible” to detect the criminal unless they are caught-in-the-act.

Specialist gardai have already identified a number of different Traveller criminal networks who are suspected of being behind the crime surge and this includes a notorious family based mob based in Athy, Co Kildare, who are also involved in aggravated burglaries, robbing Asian people of gold and lucrative break-in’s at petrol stations.

They are suspected of being the main criminals involved in this type of crime in counties Kildare, Carlow, Laois and Kilkenny and are suspected of travelling in convoy with a spotter car ahead.

An organised shoplifting gang based in north Dublin are also suspects for this type of crime and one gang member was arrested last year when gardai discovered a large number of catalytic convertors in the car he was travelling in.

Another organised gang that are on the gardai’s radar are based in Co Galway and when not attempting to steal from vehicles, they are suspected of handling and dealing in stolen caravans on an international scale.

A key member of this outfit is aged just 17 and some of his older associates have been involved in brutal Traveller feuding for years.

Gardai based in both Co Galway and Co Kildare have had some success against this mob and made arrests for the theft offences during the past two years.

Another target based in Co Sligo is a 36-year-old “car wheeler dealer” who is also suspected of being “a significant player” in the crime surge.

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