A gang has stolen €100k of cigarettes from a moving truck on a motorway in a daring raid.
The theft, which occurred on a 50km stretch of the M7 motorway at around 5am on Monday, has been described by sources as "unprecedented and unbelievable".
The Herald can today disclose that during the highly bizarre incident:
l A Subaru 4x4 vehicle drove behind the truck heading southbound near the M7 tollbooth and two men jumped from the bonnet of that vehicle onto the rear of the truck.
l It is understood that as this was happening, another vehicle drove suspiciously in front of the lorry which caused the truck to slow down, enabling the raiders to get securely on to the moving truck.
l The pair of thieves then gained entry to the truck and used paint to spray CCTV cameras in the trailer and had cutters which disabled an alarm system in the vehicle.
l CCTV footage from outside the lorry shows the Subaru which the men jumped from coming close to the truck on three occasions - but it is not known how they got the cigarettes off the truck.
l The driver of the lorry was oblivious to any of this happening and it is believed that the suspects remained in the vehicle for over 30 minutes.
l Once the two raiders cleaned out the cigarette haul, it is understood that they jumped back out of the truck and onto the 4x4 vehicle before the gang made their escape.
l It is understood that all of this happened while the two vehicles were driving at speeds of around 80km per hour.
Gardai believe that at least one more vehicle was involved in the crime which is becoming more prevalent in continental Europe and has been nicknamed by some police authorities as a "Romanian roll-over" because it is believed to have been invented by gangs from that country.
Last night, sources confirmed there have been no arrests in the case and the investigation is being led by gardai based in Kildare who are being backed up by their colleagues in Laois and other special garda units.
The cigarettes were being transported on the lorry from a location near Ashbourne, Co Meath to Shannon, Co Clare.
The theft was not noticed until the lorry reached Shannon and sources believe that the crime was "extremely well planned and a huge degree of surveillance was involved".
"This might be the kind of thing you watch in a far-fetched action movie but the facts are that this theft unfolded on Ireland's busiest motorway in the early hours of Monday morning," a source explained.
Sources say that Monday's theft was most likely the work of a highly-organised foreign gang, possibly from Romania, who may have received military training.
In June 2012, Romanian police released footage of gangsters breaking into the back of a truck as they hurtled along a motorway at night.
In the footage, the thieves quickly drive up behind their target vehicle, positioning themselves so close that its driver would be unable to see them in his mirrors.
Two men can then be seen emerging from the sunroof.
As one edges out on to the bonnet, the other grabs his legs and holds him steady.
Romanian police said the gang had already used the technique to carry out many successful robberies from moving vehicles between March and May of that year before they were finally busted for stealing cigarettes, TVs and other goods from the truck.