herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

Gardai fear laptop theft linked to probe into FF developers' tax affairs

LAPTOPS stolen from a Revenue office contained the records of Fianna Fail-linked developers under investigation for alleged tax evasion.

Gardai are now trying to establish if the high profile burglary was staged to disrupt criminal investigations.

A number of businesspeople whose records were stolen are being investigated by tax officials and are linked to Fianna Fail, the Herald understands.

Ten laptops were taken during the well-planned break-in which has been dubbed 'Ashtowngate' -- a reference to the notorious Watergate burglary.

Three men entered the Revenue's offices at Ashtown Gate on Navan Road using a special swipe card, during a 30-minute window when the offices were empty but the main alarm system had not been activated.

A source told the Herald: "This robbery is being portrayed in the media as an opportunistic crime, but senior officers now suspect more sinister motives.

"The tax evasion unit at the offices were investigating a number of individuals involved in property development in Dublin.

"A number of these individuals have Fianna Fail links and prosecutions taken against them could be embarrassing for the party."

The theft occurred in the office building at 7.25pm last Thursday.

Gardai suspect that the theft was made in a bid to disrupt tax evasion and criminal investigations.

The branch of the Revenue targeted in the raid specialises in investigating serious tax evasion and tax issues related to criminal activity, including organised crime.

It is understood that files on investigations being carried out by the Criminal Assets Bureau may also been stolen.

While examining CCTV footage from the Ashtown facility, gardai observed three masked individuals using a magnetic swipe card to access a side door at the facility.

Completely ignoring the bottom floors of the building, the three men headed to the top floor and were seen carefully choosing the computers they wanted.

Once they had identified the laptops they wished to steal, the computers, which were chained and padlocked, were freed and the men fled the scene.

They spent 30 minutes in total in the office, which was empty at the time.

Chained

Revenue confirmed in a statement last Friday that the stolen laptops were "chained and padlocked" to desks at the time.

"As a matter of policy, Revenue's laptops are encrypted using a leading brand that complies with the highest international security certifications," the statement added.

Investigators are confident that certain desks and certain information were targeted in the theft and have dismissed the idea that this was an opportunistic crime.

Detectives are examining the possibility that the theft may be linked to investigations involving massive tax evasion by building developers.

Officials based at the office work in conjunction with the Criminal Assets Bureau in trying to use tax law to confiscate money from organised crime gangs.

Other officials at the Ashtown offices investigate people from whom cash with questionable origins is seized at ports or airports either entering or leaving the State.

Much of the cash seized in recent years is believed to be the proceeds of drug dealing.

hnews@herald.ie

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