Border gang suspected in €100k ATM digger raid
Gardai are investigating if a cross-border crime group was behind an early morning robbery in which a digger was used to rip an ATM from a bank wall.
The brazen raid was carried out by a three-man gang at a Bank of Ireland in Ballybay, Co Monaghan, at around 3am.
A digger was towed to the scene by a tractor and trailer, while a large SUV with a trailer was used to remove the ATM from the scene.
It is believed that up to €100,000 was taken during the raid, while the tractor was set alight at the scene.
Gardai are probing if the raid was carried out by a cross-border gang which has carried out similar raids involving heavy machinery across the country.
The mob, led by a convicted criminal from the North aged in his 50s, is well-known to both gardai and the PSNI.
Sources last night told the Herald that investigations into the robbery were at an early stage, but that the cross-border gang was "high up" in the suspect list.
"It is still early days in the inquiry, but the way in which this crime was carried out points to a certain criminal gang who operate on both sides of the border," the source said.
"They have used diggers and heavy machinery for similar thefts before, and they will now come under increased garda attention as a result.
"It will have to be established if this money has been moved across the border or, if this gang are responsible, if it was buried on this side of the border."
An investigation by gardai in Carrickmacross is ongoing.
Gardai said that the SUV used to transport the ATM from the scene drove in the direction of Cootehill or Carrickmacross.
"The scene is sealed off and traffic diversions are in place in the area," a spokesman said.
"Anyone with information is asked to contact Carrickmacross Garda Station on 042 9690190."
The leader of the cross-border crime group had previously served a lengthy jail term in Belgium after being convicted over a million-euro stolen machinery ring.
The gang, which sources said is made up of around 10 individuals, has been previously suspected of similar crimes along the border and in Munster.
In April 2015, a bungling effort to use a digger to pull an ATM from a bank in Castleblayney ended with the mob leaving empty-handed.
During that botched raid, the gang - who later fled across the border - placed barriers on the road, including a fake bomb and planks of wood with spikes on it, in an attempt to prevent their pursuit by gardai.
A teleporter had been stolen from a construction site just 300m away and was used in the botched robbery.
In a separate incident in Kerry, the ringleader was quizzed, but never charged after €250,000 was stolen from an ATM using a digger in 2010.
Two men from Northern Ireland were later jailed for the theft, which involved a four-man gang. Significant damage was also caused to the bank, with a dummy-run carried out weeks earlier involving a €100,000 digger.
Operations will be in place once again this year to prevent similar ATM and cash-in-transit raids, with banks holding extra cash in the run-up to Christmas.