ATM land or brothers
Arrests: GardaÍ crack down on gang of smash-and-grab raiders
GardaÍ believe they have smashed a major border gang on the cusp of becoming the next generation of untouchable millionaires of bandit country.
Officers say the group who were behind a spate of ATM thefts had been using their funds to buy up land and sites, invest in construction and purchase filling stations while setting up major fuel-laundering operations.
They were operating in a cell structure and specialised in smash-and-grab raids on ATM machines with industrial diggers. They had also created a sophisticated money-laundering network which was on the verge of turning them into wealthy developers.
The cell was working hand-in-hand with similar gangs operating on both sides of the border and utilising each other’s strengths for logistics and man power. On many occasions, gardaí believe the group would loan out getaway drivers and stash houses to one another.
A multi-agency offensive against the group has netted the State more than €400,000 in cash, along with documents and bank details relating to the laundering of the stolen funds.
It is understood that the investigation has uncovered a criminal roadmap to an untouchable underworld enterprise similar to operations that have developed along the border in the past.
The group, like many of their Republican forefathers, had shunned drug dealing as a means of making their millions and instead collected cash, buried it in containers on land and then used it to fund development and the purchase of land.
Sources say the investment structures are based on the same well-worn path that have turned previous border bandits into multi millionaires, with funds squirrelled away in a network of secretive construction projects and property portfolios which have been notoriously difficult to crack.
The Criminal Assets Bureau, as well as local and national Garda units, were involved in the crackdown on the group, which is made up of members north and south of the border and who once worked alongside cop killer Aaron Brady and his mob.
The gang are aged in their late 20s and early 30s and have been investing most of their ill-gotten gains close to home.
It is understood that members of two groups worked together on some jobs while separately on others, but ran a lucrative ATM robbery spree on both sides of the border before they were nabbed.
This week, three brothers and another man were brought before the Special Criminal Court after they were arrested by gardaí and charged in relation to a number of ATM thefts.
Gerard (29), Ciaran (26) and Stephen (34) Duffy and another man, Niall Finnegan (38), were charged after they were lifted in early morning raids of their homes in Loughnamore and Castleblaney, in Co. Monaghan, and in Cullyhana, in Co. Armagh.
Officers suspect the four are part of one cell involved in the ATM raids, along with another man who is currently in custody on a separate offence and who comes from a well-known Republican family from Co. Armagh.
He is expected to be brought before the Special Criminal Court in the coming weeks charged in relation to organised crime offences.
All three Duffy brothers are accused of offences relating to the attempted theft of an ATM in Virginia, in Co. Cavan, as well as other offences relating to their involvement in a criminal enterprise.
Finnegan is also charged with a long list of offences relating to the robberies.
Sources say the gang were the scourge of gardaí working around Dundalk and Monaghan until their spectacular mishap in Virginia.
At that point a massive undercover investigation meant that detectives had intelligence that the raid was going to happen are were lying in wait nearby. However, just as the raiders placed the stolen digger at the hotel where the ATM was situated, they stopped and fled.
One of the suspects was arrested at the scene and another fled and was arrested in a hotel toilet some hours later. Another was followed to an address in Co. Meath where €300,000 in cash was found. Later, another €100,000 was found.
Last September, the Criminal Assets Bureau moved in on a number of gang suspects and seized documents, a car and illegal cigarettes. They targeted 10 premises and locations in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan, including two yards where there was evidence of fuel laundering, including a working plant.
In the past year-and-a-half, a total of 16 ATMs were robbed in the North and 15 in the South, while officers struggled to get a handle on the situation.
All four suspects have told the Special Criminal Court that they intent to apply for bail and for free legal aid.