Burglary gang driver quizzed after raids on six stores in one night
A highly skilled 'wheelman' who drives high-powered cars for one of the country's most prolific burglary gangs has been arrested as part of a major investigation.
The Finglas-based suspect, aged in his 20s, was released without charge after being questioned about six commercial burglaries on the same night.
Senior sources revealed that the criminal - who is out on bail for other offences - has acted as the getaway driver for a Clondalkin-based organised crime gang.
He was arrested last week by Portlaoise detectives and quizzed about a "night of chaos" around six weeks ago, in which his gang is suspected of smash and grab raids on six shops in counties Laois and Kilkenny.
The mob was intercepted by gardai in Urlingford, Co Kilkenny, during one raid in the early hours of the morning.
A chase ensued but the gang was able to evade officers as it was using a high-speed car.
However, crucial CCTV was obtained showing the burglary crew driving back towards the capital on the motorway which led to last week's arrest.
It is understood that DNA evidence has also been obtained by investigators but there have been no charges yet.
"This was a highly significant arrest and a file is now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions," a senior source said.
"This individual, who comes from an Eastern European background but is actually Irish-born, is the driver for one of the country's most prolific burglary gangs, who have generally been using high-powered Audi vehicles.
"He has been collated driving at speeds well in excess of 250kph on the motorways and the chase that happened in Urlingford is not the first time that he has managed to evade arrest.
"The gang he is involved with use crude methods to break into shops in the early hours of the morning - they generally go after cash floats as well as cigarettes. They have been highly prolific in the last six months.
"Some of his closest associates have already been charged with serious burglary offences and the expectation is that he will be next.
"Obviously he is completely refusing to co-operate with the garda investigation."
Meanwhile, officers in Kilkenny have had major success against a separate criminal organisation linked to dozens of residential burglaries nationwide in January alone.
This mob is led by two Traveller criminal families based in the Tallaght area and has been using so-called "hubs" in different areas of the country to stash vehicles and ill-gotten loot.
"These hubs are located in rural areas - their associates reside in these locations and it means they can offer a safe haven for the gang but they also provide surveillance for the Dublin-based criminals on properties for the gangs to target," a senior source said.
It was one of these hubs that Kilkenny gardai recently raided at a location near Thurles, Co Tipperary, where they seized two high-powered Audi vehicles that are suspected of being used by the Tallaght Traveller crew in a number of burglaries.
The seized cars are still being forensically examined by specialist officers.
"It was a major result to get those vehicles out of circulation - they are connected to a Traveller gang based in the Tallaght area and they were seized by officers acting on specific information," the source added.
It is understood that there has been a general decrease in burglaries involving both gangs in recent weeks, with the national anti-burglary unit continuing to carry out a number of major late-night surveillance operations in an attempt to catch some of the main players.