Brothers wanted in truck deaths probe 'calm' during garda swoop
Two brothers English police want to question over the deaths of 39 people in the back of a truck in Essex last month were present in their Co Monaghan homes yesterday when armed gardai raided the properties as part of a CAB investigation.
Ronan Hughes (40) and his brother Christopher (34) are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking by Essex Police but the UK authorities have not obtained European Arrest Warrants for the brothers.
The pair were present at their homes in Co Monaghan, during the massive raid and senior sources say that the duo were unfazed about the huge garda operation which kicked off at around 6am.
Gardai were unable to arrest the brothers as they have not received a warrant from English police.
"They were very calm - they showed no concern despite what the English police have said about them. These lads are not on the run, they are not in hiding - they are living their life and operating their jobs as they always have.
"There is no arrest warrant for them here and they were not bothered that gardai were searching their house at all - it was an attitude of 'if there is something illegal here - find it'," a senior source explained.
Nothing illegal was found at the properties linked to the Hughes brothers but a number of vehicles were seized including a Mitsubishi Jeep registered to Mo Robinson - the Armagh truck driver already charged with 39 counts of manslaughter in Essex.
Police claim Mr Robinson drove the cab of the truck to the English port of Purfleet, where it collected the trailer unit, which had arrived by ferry from Zeebrugge port in Belgium.
Also seized during the searches were a 192-registered X5 BMW M Sport, a 2016 X5 BMW, a 2014 VW transporter crew cab 2.8 litre, financial documents and records, electronic devices as well as €1,400, $900 and £600 in cash.
Gardai said in a statement that a number of restraining orders relating to accounts in financial institutions had been made by a district court judge under money-laundering and terrorist-financing legislation.
Last Tuesday, CAB officers detained a Northern Ireland-registered tractor unit and curtain-sider trailer at Dublin Port.
CAB also detained a Bulgarian-registered tractor unit and curtain-sider trailer at the same time.
Senior sources said last night that gardai investigating the alleged smuggling gang observed multiple vehicles which had been registered to the eastern European country.
Meanwhile, UK police say they have formally identified the 39 Vietnamese people whose bodies were found in the trailer unit last October 23.
DNA samples were taken in Vietnam from families, who suspected their missing relatives might have been on the truck. British police have released on bail three other people they had arrested in connection with their investigation, pending further inquiries.
In Dublin, a 22-year-old man is facing extradition proceedings to bring him to the UK to face charges of manslaughter.
Eight people have been arrested by police in Vietnam on suspicion of being involved in human smuggling.
The CAB is also securing orders from a district court judge to freeze slightly more than €200,000 being held in 19 bank and credit union accounts.
Gardai said the restraining orders in respect of the financial institutions were made under the Criminal Justice (money laundering and terrorist financing) Act, 2010.
Last Tuesday, as part of the same operation, CAB detained the Northern Ireland-registered tractor unit and curtain-sider trailer at Dublin Port. CAB also detained a Bulgarian-registered tractor unit and curtain-sider trailer at the port.
No arrests were made yesterday but CAB inquiries are continuing and will include a forensic examination of the documentation, records and electronic devices seized.
The CAB operation had been ongoing for several months. The specialist unit seized the vehicles, and seized and froze cash under laws that state there is evidence to suggest their assets are the proceeds of crime.
CAB was backed up in the dawn raids by the Emergency Response Unit (ERU), the stolen motor vehicle investigation unit, Revenue and Customs as well as the Dog Unit. The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) was also involved.
No stolen vehicles were recovered in the operation but sources said the local community has turned against the brothers after English police appealed for them to hand themselves in.
Gardai said the wider community in Monaghan had "ostracised" the two Hughes brothers over their alleged links to the migrant tragedy and even a local man who had rented out a yard to the brothers has now refused to do business with them.