Detectives assigned to the fraud investigation, led by Martin Callinan, the deputy garda commissioner and intelligence specialist, believe the gang planned to sell the forged currency at 10% of face value to the Russians, who in turn planned to launder the fakes through contacts in eastern Europe.
“We also know that a number of Irish gangs had invested in the operation on the promise they would get a few million in high quality fake currency. We believe some of the counterfeit money would have been distributed in Ireland, but the bulk of it was going east,” said a senior detective.
Four men were arrested at the scene by the garda’s emergency response unit. The leader of the gang is a former member of the Provisional IRA. When gardai entered the bunker they found a loaded armalite.
The four were detained at Portlaoise and Tullamore garda stations under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, but released without charge. They are expected to be charged in coming months.
One security expert said the presence of such a sophisticated operation was a sinister development. “If one gang managed to source the materials to produce that much counterfeit money, it is highly likely that another gang or someone else will try the same thing,” he said.
The counterfeiting operation is the first of its kind to be discovered in Ireland, although similar but smaller counterfeiting operations have been uncovered in eastern Europe. Of equal concern to garda headquarters and Europol is the fact that Irish criminals with links to paramilitary organisations are networking with organised crime gangs from Russia, who are heavily involved in drug and people trafficking.
Adds According to the Sunday Independent’s Jim Cusack
However, it has been learned that those involved in the massive counterfeiting operation include a senior IRA man convicted of murdering a British soldier in the North and who was a close associate of Gerry Adams, and three known and current members of Sinn Fein.
I guess we’ll find out more when they’re charged…