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major crackdown CAB to focus on criminals in rural areas after exceeding its goals in 2020


Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Gubbins, who is Chief Bureau Officer. Photo: Mark Condren

Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Gubbins, who is Chief Bureau Officer. Photo: Mark Condren

Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Gubbins, who is Chief Bureau Officer. Photo: Mark Condren

The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) will increase its focus on criminals operating in rural and regional areas in 2021, after exceeding its goals in a productive 2020.

The CAB is currently investigating a total of 1,724 targets across the country which is almost double the figure from the end of 2018 when the bureau investigated a total of 973 targets.

Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Gubbins, who is Chief Bureau Officer, has revealed that it had submitted more than 30 proceeds of crime applications to the High Court this year.

This is despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic which curtailed the activities of the bureau during the first lockdown.

“In 2021, we will continue to target the large organised crime groups both nationally and internationally and those involved in criminality and the drugs trade throughout the entire country,” said Det Chief Supt Gubbins.

CAB is currently investigating 41 targets who are living abroad, including members of the Kinahan cartel.

He said: “We will continue to liaise with our international colleagues and it is significant that we have strengthened our working relationship with Interpol with the secondment of three gardaí to that organisation.”

The chief bureau officer, who spent years fighting cybercrime before taking up his role as head of the CAB in May, stresses that the bureau’s work is “not all about Dublin”.

“In 2020, we have done in excess of 50 operations on 50 different targets and many of these were outside the capital.”

He said investigations have been greatly helped by what are described as “good citizen’s reports”.

“This has been very helpful to our work. It is when a concerned member of the public contacts us either by phone, email or a letter in the post and they may have observed someone in their community having a lifestyle that seems to be beyond their means whether it is the flash car, the foreign holidays or whatever it may be.

“This information is always investigated,” he said.

The bureau has increasingly utilised social media to highlight their operations and the chief bureau officer has found that this has led to more interaction with the public as well.

The CAB employs 93 people at its head office and saw its budget increased this year by 10pc to €9.1m.

It utilises a network of local asset profilers, who are recruited from every Garda division and are tasked with identifying local criminals and then sending a report on them to the bureau’s intelligence analysis unit.

“We have targets in every county, we work closely with every Garda division. It is not headlines we are looking for, we feel we have a duty to the community and this is why we bring cases against even the smaller time criminals. It can be very important sometimes to nip something in the bud,” he said.

The chief superintendent pointed to the example of one of its targets having to forfeit the sum of just €5,010 to the State – which is just slightly above the threshold for proceeds of crime legislation involving CAB.

Of the 1,724 separate investigations currently being conducted across the country by CAB, the Garda division with the most targets is Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) West in the capital with 284 targets – followed by DMR South which has 176.

In DMR West, one of the bureau’s main targets are the drugs trafficking gang known as ‘The Family’ who have been the subject of numerous CAB raids in recent years. Meanwhile, in DMR North, the arch criminal nicknamed ‘Mr Big’ remains a massive target.

Outside Dublin, the Garda division that has the most CAB targets is Limerick with 135 targets, followed by Westmeath/Meath where 83 targets are based.

The Mayo Garda division has the lowest amount of targets at just five, followed by Cork North which has eight.

A target can be an individual, but is more often a crime network made up of a number of people. Reflecting on what has been a very positive year for CAB, Det Chief Supt Gubbins expressed satisfaction with a joint operation the bureau had with the West Midlands police in England which led to the seizure of 82 cars valued at over €2m in Co Tipperary on September 24.

That was one of six raids carried out that morning in Tipperary and in Co Clare as part of an investigation into an international organised crime gang.

At the same time that gardaí pounced on four homes and two businesses in those two counties, English police in the West Midlands arrested a number of suspected gang members for invoice redirect fraud offences targeting companies in the UK.

“We worked with the West Midlands police in that case and it showed our commitment to international liaison. These partnerships also work both ways,” he said.

Other major highlights include significant raids in counties Kerry and Longford, where members of the public approached CAB officers and thanked them for their efforts.

“Our objective is to deny and deprive criminals of their assets – that is our job. It is heartening to see the local communities getting behind us and we continue to fully utilise the Garda profiling network,” he said.

July’s CAB operation in Longford focused on a notorious local crime gang who have been involved in a bitter feud.

The operation, which had been planned for weeks led to the seizure of €110,000 and £14,000 (€15,600) in cash, 11 vehicles, three caravans and designer watches, handbags and clothing.

Specialist armed garda national units were backed up by local officers as they raided 12 homes, three professional premises and a business premises.

It is estimated one property raided had around €500,000 worth of upgrades made to it including “marble on every internal surface and pure granite pillars and fittings”.

Follow-up investigations continue into the Longford gang and their bank accounts.

This was not the only mob involved in a bitter feud that CAB targeted in 2020 and gangs based in Drogheda and Dundalk were also on the bureau’s radar throughout the year. There are currently 57 targets under investigation in Co Louth.

There have also been some notable court outcomes for CAB, including in November when Dublin-based builder Robbie Stewart (34) paid out almost €1m in assets after a lengthy investigation into assets gained from his drug-dealing network.

Another case that Det Chief Supt Gubbins considers “extremely significant” is against a north Dublin gunman and drugs trafficker who can’t be named here for legal reasons.

The High Court gave permission to CAB to sell off his seized assets and hand over the proceeds to State coffers.

The assets included a 151 Audi A6 car, a quantity of designer jewellery that included high-end watches, handbags, clothing and more than €36,000 in cash. The total value of the assets is estimated at €136,000.

“This individual is a typical example of a criminal showing all the outward displays of wealth.

"If you look at all the assets that were seized, it tells its own story,” the senior detective said.

There was a diamond-encrusted Audemars Piquet Watch valued at over €22,000; a Rolex watch valued at over €16,000, as well as a ladies Rolex Oyster Perpetual Watch valued at over €21,000. Designer goods, including Louis Vuitton handbags, wallets, sunglasses, Givenchy shoes and designer jackets, worth €10,000 were also seized from him.

“People like this destroy lives and leave a trail of destruction behind them,” Det Chief Supt Gubbins said.

Also considered significant are court proceedings against illegal money lender Diana Casey (36) from Kilrush, Co Clare. The bureau are attempting to seize three properties that are registered in her name.

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