By Andrew Phelan
Thursday August 20 2009
MORE than 150 armed detectives swooped on solicitors, accountants and a building society in their crackdown on gangland crime.
Sources said gardai were trying to "follow the money" and find evidence against a notorious Finglas gangster.
In a day of synchronised action, gardai seized evidence from innocent professionals who may have come in contact with the gang. Homes across the country were also raided.
The crime boss they are targeting rose to prominence after the killing of former kingpin Martin "Marlo" Hyland in 2006.
He is a priority target for gardai and has been linked to several unsolved murders. The raids, that started at 6am yesterday, represent the first garda offensive in a new war on crime since the introduction of tough laws aimed at battling gangs. Several more operations are expected soon.
Gardai hope they will have gathered enough evidence to prosecute the gang leader, who has never been charged in connection with any of the murders he was linked to.
In 23 searches in Dublin, Louth and Meath, documents, mobile phones and bank account details were seized.
No arrests were made.
There has been no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the financial institution, with officers saying the purpose was to "follow the money trail".
It is believed they will try to use this trail against gang members by matching their assets to their criminal activities. Outside Dublin, the searches carried out included a raid on a house in Bettystown, Co Meath.
Searches were also carried out in Dundalk, Co Louth.
The operation was co-ordinated by the Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne and involved officers from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Organised Crime Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Emergency Response Unit.
It was supported by gardai from local divisions. The new laws that paved the way for the blitz are in the recently introduced Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act, which allows for a maximum life sentence for those convicted of directing a criminal gang.
For the first time, the act also made participation in a criminal gang, or facilitating one, an offence.
Senior gardai had begun identifying targets for the clampdown before the legislation was enacted, according to sources.
A number of gangland figures are reported to have fled the country in recent weeks through fear of prosecution.