International angle to jewellery theft as suspects arrested in Laois remain in custody

Laois Gardaí detain three men in Ballaghmore and recover jewellery

International angle to jewellery theft as suspects arrested in Laois remain in custody
By Conor Ganly news@leinsterexpress.ieTwitter: @laoisnews

Gardaí believe there was a big international dimension to the activities of those arrested in Laois last week, when a substantial amount of jewellery stolen from a shop in Athlone during Storm Emma was recovered.

Gardaí also arrested three males believed to be from Romania during the operation in south Laois on Friday afternoon, March 9.

Laois-Offaly Division Gardaí confirmed the suspects were detained at stations in Portlaoise, Tullamore and Athlone where they are to be questioned in relation to their possible involvement in the robbery from a jewellery shop in the Co Westmeath town in which up to €250,000 worth of goods were stolen.

Their periods of detention were extended by 72 hours over the weekend. They are being detained under organised crime legislation.

Gardaí also believe they have enough evidence to question some of those detained in relation to other raids.

There is also an international element to the activities of the suspects. There are connections to incidents in Italy, Norway and France.

The operation was carried out by gardaí and detectives based in Portlaoise, Tullamore and Tipperary. They made the arrests at a house in the Ballagmore area on the Laois Tipperary border.

The Laois Offaly Garda Divison taskforce, which was set up late last year in response to a spat of gang robberies, played a key part in the operation. It was set up on the instigation of Laois Offaly Chief Superintendent John Scanlon.

The arrests are understood to be part of ongoing investigations into the activities of non-Irish national gangs who establish in various parts of Ireland and carry out burglaries in surrounding counties.

Laois Gardaí recently featured in a PrimeTime special in relation to the type of criminality involved.

During the programme gardaí reported having to cover hundreds of kilometres a night in pursuit of gangs.

The Leinster Express also understands that two detectives in each Laois-Offaly Garda Division District (Birr, Portlaoise, Tullamore) have been appointed to monitor the movements of and record and gather information on criminal gangs from outside Ireland.

The intelligence gathered will be shared nationally to combat crime and bring those responsible before courts.

During Storm Emma the Park Jewellers in the Golden Island Shopping Centre in Athlone was broken into on Saturday, March 3. Alarms were deactivated at the centre and the shop before rings, bracelets, watches and chains were removed.

A hard drive was also taken from the centre's CCTV system.

The raid was not detected until Golden Island security staff opened the centre on Saturday morning.

Those responsible are suspected of entering and left the shopping centre via the roof.

In a separate incident in Portlaoise last week, a large quantity of tools were stolen from a building site on the St Fintan's Hospital campus in Portlaoise.

A community drug addiction treatment centre is being constructed on the site by Clancy Construction for the HSE.

The theft was carried out sometime between Tuesday March 6, and Wednesday March 7.

Laois Gardaí report that “a large quantity of tools were taken” including drills and hand tools.

They say the suspects would have needed transport and are asking the public for any information.