Mobsters pocketed nearly €500,000 in cash machine thefts
Almost half a million euro was stolen by an organised crime gang which was involved in the theft of two cash machines using a digger in Co Meath last month, senior sources have disclosed.
A total of €480,000 was taken in the highly planned raids in Kells which happened in the early hours of April 19, Good Friday.
There have been no arrests so far in the case, which is being investigated by local officers as well as specialist garda units.
The burnt-out empty ATMs were found in a rural area of Co Cavan less than two days later.
A car, an SUV and a trailer, also believed to have been used by the raiders, were also burnt out.
They were all discovered in a forested area near Barley Hill, Kingscourt, close to the Meath border with Monaghan.
The Herald has previously revealed that the chief suspects have links to the ruthless gang involved in the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe in 2013.
The mob is mainly based between south Armagh and north Louth but also has criminal associates in the Meath area and is suspected to be one of at least three gangs involved in the ATM thefts.
Two cash machines were ripped from banks before the raiders fled from the scene in separate vehicles.
The digger and tractor used were stolen earlier that night in separate counties.
The digger was taken from a field in Meath, while the JCB, tractor and trailer used to transport the excavator to the scene were stolen in the Louth area.
An alert was issued to officers in surrounding counties over the theft as well as descriptions of the getaway vehicles.
Investigators are still trying to work out the escape route that the gang used as it made its way over the Border into south Armagh.
The same mobsters are the chief suspects in a €70,000 ATM robbery in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, at around 3am on April 2.
Earlier this week gardai at their annual Garda Representative Association (GRA) Conference said an officer could be shot by one of the organised crime gangs involved in ATM thefts .
Garda James Morrisroe told the Herald that the gangsters involved in this type of crime had "no fear" of unarmed gardai.
The GRA president said it "makes sense" for banks to place dye in cash machines in a bid to halt the spate of thefts on both sides of the Border.
A total of 18 ATMs have been stolen so far this year in raids in both jurisdictions. While gardai have made no arrests, the PSNI has arrested and charged two suspects.
These men are not being investigated by gardai for the Kells raids.
The PSNI operation happened after a digger was used to tear a cash machine from a filling station at Tully Road, Nutts Corner in Co Antrim in the early hours of Tuesday.
The ATM was recovered a short time later.
One of the most prolific gangs involved in this type of crime is led by a suspected killer of Det Gda Donohoe, who was shot dead in 2013 while on armed escort duty in Co Louth.
All have "dissident links" and sources say the gangs pay large sums to dissident groups after each theft as a tax.
Apart from the Kells and Castleblayney raids, the mob is also suspected of ATM thefts in Ballybay, Co Monaghan, and Kingscourt, Co Cavan.
Gardai want tracking devices built into all ATMs and it has emerged that officers foiled a digger theft in Carlingford, Co Louth, over the St Patrick's Day weekend.