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Clothes war

FOR MOST of us they are old clothes, discarded for collection on the doorstep.

But a new gun war on the streets of Dublin is emerging for your second-hand rags.

Two men have now been shot in broad daylight in Dublin housing estates as rivalries between gangs dealing in second-hand clothes spill into violence.

It's all because the clothes you don't want make up a €50m-a-year market.

In the most recent attack, an innocent clothes collector was targeted in a gun ambush in Sandyford, south Dublin, last week.

That shooting has focused attention on a crime that is largely under the surface -- but worth millions of euro a year to Eastern European gangs.

Meanwhile, charities taking part in the legitimate collection of clothes say their efforts are being hampered by the involvement of the crime gangs. A tonne of used garments -- the equivalent of about 100 full bin bags -- is estimated to be worth up to €600. A 40ft-trailer full of clothes is worth around €35,000 in eastern European markets.

In most cases, the items are stolen directly from charities or collected by individuals falsely claiming they are from a charitable organisation.





drop

A bogus leaflet recently delivered to homes in north Dublin asked residents to fill bags provided "with all types of wearable ladies', gents', children's clothing, blankets, shoes etc".

"All clothes are shipped to under-developed countries to improve their lives and welfare," it added. The leaflet claimed the collection was "authorised by a collection permit issued by your local council".

However, this proved to be false, with no such permit issued by the local authority.

Enable Ireland has said bogus operations are affecting its own efforts to collect clothes.

It said there had been a drop of about 40pc in the amount of items they were given by householders.

Another difficulty was that clothes banks belonging to Enable Ireland were regularly raided, leading to the charity spending money on making them more secure.

"All members of the ICSA, the Irish Charity Shops Association, have that problem," the charity said. The Irish Cancer Society has also admitted there is a problem.

The second-hand clothes eventually make it to markets in eastern Europe countries as well as Africa and South America. Cotton is most valuable, while synthetics and wools are worth very little and are generally recycled.

Senior gardai said last October that they feared "a bloodbath" following attacks on a gang which controls most of the trade in Ireland. The main gang, based in Cork but with operatives in Dublin, has up to 30 vans and trucks operating around the country.

It also has a chain of high street stores in the Baltic states which sell the clothes. Three vans belonging to this outfit were hit by arsonists on the southside of Cork city and two were burned out in Waterford on October 14.





Targeted

In the Sandyford attack, an innocent Lithuanian man is recovering after being shot on Friday morning. Virgis Aleksiunas (38) was hit in the chest and face as he was about to drive his son Alex (17) to school. It is believed he was targeted as his legitimate involvement in the used clothes trade was impacting on the earnings of a criminal gang.

A 41-year-old Lithuanian was arrested but released without charge. The incident followed a shooting in March last year in which another Lithuanian man was gunned down in Artane, north Dublin. He also survived the attack.

comurphy@herald.ie