Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Dublin gangsters steal US$8.9m in bank raid

KIDNAPPED An armed gang pulled off Ireland’s biggest cash robbery by forcing a bank official to withdraw money while holding his family hostage

THE GUARDIAN , BELFAST

An Irish gang forced a bank employee to withdraw US$8.9 million from the safe of the main branch of the Bank of Ireland in College Green Dublin, Ireland, on Friday, police said.

PHOTO: AFP

Dublin gangsters on Friday staged the biggest cash robbery in the history of the Irish Republic, stealing up to 7 million euros (US$8.9 million) from the Bank of Ireland in Dublin’s College Green.

In what was is known as a Tiger kidnapping, an armed gang held the family of a bank official hostage at their County Kildare home on Thursday night before the raid in the early hours.

The method of hostage-taking and then making a bank employee go to his workplace and take a large sum of money out of it is similar to the audacious Irish Republican Army (IRA) raid on the headquarters of the Northern Bank in 2004.

Raiders usually threaten to the kill family members, as happened in the Northern Bank robbery, to compel the bank official to cooperate in the heist. In this latest event the gang forced their way into the home at Kilteel and took the bank worker’s partner, her mother and a seven-year-old child hostage.

The official, named last night as Shane Travers, was then forced to go the bank, which was the first Irish parliament back in the 18th century, across the road from Trinity College Dublin, and withdraw the cash. During the raid Travers’ partner was beaten and his family were then taken away in their car. Travers, who is in his 20s, was then forced to drive in his car from Kilteel to the bank. After withdrawing the money, he handed it over to the gang at the Clontarf DART suburban rail station in North Dublin. His family was then released in the Ashbourne area north of Dublin city. The raiders never entered the bank at all during the raid.

Security sources said last night that the chief suspect behind the robbery was a career criminal in his early 60s based in North County Dublin. He is currently out on bail on charges relating to other alleged criminal offenses. The sources said Travers and his girlfriend’s family were under surveillance for some time.

The last major cash robbery on a similar scale took place at a security firm depot near Dublin airport more than a decade ago. In that incident an organized Irish crime gang stole 4 million euros in cash. The largest cash robbery on the entire island remains the Northern Bank raid when the IRA stole up to £26 million (US$37.2 million) after holding the families of two bank officials hostage. The officials were then forced to hand over sacks filled with millions in cash to the IRA at the bank’s Belfast headquarters.

Although Friday’s raid in Dublin is a carbon copy of the IRA’s audacious robbery in Belfast, there is nothing to suggest there was any paramilitary involvement this time. Police are now appealing for information on the cars used in the incident, the bank official’s red Toyota Celica and the family’s dark Volkswagon Golf.

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