'€100k or you won't see your prized dog alive again'
The gang who stole a prized €1m greyhound demanded a ransom of €100,000 from the dog's owners, warning them the animal would never be returned alive if they didn't pay up.
It is understood Clares Rocket was stolen and the ransom demanded after a major drugs deal involving gang boss Christy Keane fell apart.
Convicted drug dealer Keane was arrested when he was caught travelling with the stolen dog on Tuesday night.
The Herald can reveal the €100,000 ransom demand was made via a phone call to a member of the Limerick Full House syndicate just hours after the theft of the greyhound from kennels in Golden, Co Tipperary, on Sunday night.
The male caller demanded the six-figure cash sum and threatened that the dog would never be returned alive unless the ransom was paid.
However, armed gardai recovered the greyhound when they stopped two cars during simultaneous raids in Kilkenny at around 10pm on Tuesday.
They had been monitoring crime lord Keane (55) and other gang members all day.
In total, four men were arrested in the two cars at Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny, and at another location on the Kilkenny/Waterford border.
Aside from Limerick drugs boss Keane, a dissident Republican from the same city and a man from Waterford were among those arrested.
The four were still being held in Clonmel and Tipperary Garda Stations last night.
One of the cars was tracked by gardai as it left Limerick and travelled to Waterford, where the dog was handed over to the occupants of the car.
This car was then tracked as it left the Waterford city area before being intercepted on the county border.
It is understood the criminals had been plotting to kidnap Clares Rocket for weeks and had detailed knowledge of where to find the greyhound.
The dog, which was stolen from the kennels of Irish Derby-winning trainer Graham Holland, is owned by the Limerick Full House syndicate, headed by Joe Cahill.
Rocket has been trained by Mr Holland, who owns family-run business Riverside Kennels in Golden.
The arrest of Keane is considered highly significant.
Gardai are now probing the convicted drug dealer's links to dissident Republicans in the Limerick area.
Keane survived an attempt on his life last year, when he was shot four times in the chest and arms at the University of Limerick.
He was a main player in the deadly Limerick feud and his faction was involved in brutal gang warfare with the McCarthy/Dundon mob.
In 2000, Keane survived another hit attempt when former associate Eddie Ryan pulled a gun on him, but the weapon jammed.
Two of the criminals arrested with him have also been on gardai radar for years.