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Friday 24 March 2017

Criminal behind massive fuel-laundering scam held over €3m drug haul

Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll praised the find
Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll praised the find

A criminal linked to a massive fuel laundering operation was last night being questioned in relation to the seizure of over €3m of drugs.

An operation carried out by Revenue and gardai led to the recovery of 160kg of cannabis herb, with an estimated street value of €3.2m.

Four people were arrested in relation to the seizure, which occurred shortly before 4pm on Tuesday afternoon in Ashbourne, Co Meath.

The Herald has learned that one of the men arrested is a long-term target of Revenue because of his links to the illegal fuel laundering trade.

The arrested man, who is aged in his 40s and has an address in Ratoath, Co Meath, also works as a truck driver.

He has been a target of Revenue officials for several years, with authorities hitting him with a substantial tax bill.

"Revenue and Customs have been going after him for years, and he owes them hundreds of thousands," a source said last night.

"He is involved in the haulage business but he is also closely connected to a Kildare criminal who is involved in fuel laundering on an industrial scale."

Gardai were last night continuing to question four men at Kells and Finglas garda stations in relation to the drug seizure.

The men, who are aged between 25 and 61, are all Irish nationals and were detained in relation to drug trafficking offences.

One of men has an address in Bailieborough, Co Cavan and is considered a relatively minor figure in the criminal enterprise.

Planned

Tuesday's operation also involved the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB), the Special Crime Task Force and gardai from the Eastern Division.

Several vehicles were initially brought to a stop in a planned search, before gardai raided a nearby business premises.

Gardai are satisfied that the seized drugs are not directly linked to the Kinahan cartel.

Investigators are attempting to establish if the significant seizure is instead linked to a north Dublin drug gang.

A garda spokesman said: "Joint investigations by Revenue and An Garda Siochana are continuing, both domestically and internationally, with regard to this significant seizure of controlled drugs destined for the Irish market."

It is the latest in a series of successful operations targeting organised crime gangs and their drug trafficking networks.

On Saturday night, armed gardai raided a property in Sallins, Co Kildare, where they discovered around €3m of heroin and cocaine as well as an assault rifle.

Surveillance

Two weeks earlier, Revenue's customs officers recovered almost €40m of cannabis herb at Dublin Port.

The consignment, which originated in South Africa, is linked to the Kinahan cartel.

The massive cannabis haul was hidden in containers labelled mechanical tractor parts when it was recovered.

Gardai kept surveillance on the 1,873kg drugs shipment for almost a week before it was seized .

Following the seizure, Assistant Garda Commissioner John O'Driscoll, who is in charge of Special Crime Operations, said: "We are all about trying to achieve results and this I believe in anyone's estimation is a great result."

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