Gardai (police) are jubilant over the quick arrests of suspects they believe are linked to the largest robbery in the history of the Republic when €7.6 million was taken from the College Green branch of the Bank of Ireland in central Dublin. Investigators also recovered €1.7 million within hours of the theft, but are disappointed €5.9 million remains hidden and that other suspects are still at large. There has also been severe criticism of banking security following the revelation that police weren’t notified for some time after bank staff filled four laundry sacks with money for a 24-year-old junior colleague, Shane Travers, who was operating under fear for the lives of his girlfriend and members of her family who were being held hostage. By the time the alert was raised more than 10 minutes after Travers left the bank he was almost two miles away surrendering his sports car with the stash of money to a waiting gang member at a railway station in the suburb of Clontarf. He had shown his colleagues a number of photographs supplied by the gang of his girlfriend Stephanie Smith, her five-year-old nephew and her mother Joan held at gunpoint. There was also at least one photograph identifying the home of one of his colleagues, indicating the gang had detailed information on the movements of a number of members of the bank staff. Travers’ ordeal started when six heavily-built armed and masked men burst into his girlfriend’s home near Kilteel, Co. Kildare, while he was visiting. A vase was smashed over his girlfriend’s head as the gang made it clear they meant business. Travers was given a mobile phone, ordered to collect €20, €50, €100 and €200 bank notes from his workplace, and supplied with the photographs to prove to his colleagues that the hostages’ lives were under threat. After he carried out the instructions to the letter last Friday his car was later found burned out in an apartment block near Tolka House Pub in Glasnevin. Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, although sympathetic to Travers’ predicament, was furious that “proper procedures” were not carried out by the bank during the robbery. He said Gardai should have been contacted before the money left the bank. He also questioned how such a large sum of money could be taken as a result of one man being targeted. The bank’s chief executive, Richie Boucher, appointed just two days earlier, immediately e-mailed all his staff to remind them that protocol should be followed in the event of future robberies. On Monday, a top-level conference of security chiefs at all main banks was held at Garda HQ in Phoenix Park, Dublin, to discuss the lessons of the robbery and to tighten up security systems. Meanwhile, six men and a woman, aged from their early twenties to late thirties and all linked to a major inner-city gang of known hardline criminals, were in custody following their arrests on Friday night within 10 hours of the robbery. Among them was a nephew of reformed criminal Gerard “The Monk” Hutch, once named as the suspected mastermind of one of Ireland’s previous biggest robberies, a *3 million raid on a security company at Dublin Airport in the nineties, although he was never prosecuted for the crime. The breakthrough last Friday for Gardai came when one was arrested following a chase along the M50 motorway near the Navan Road. Two bales of cash were discovered in his car. The other six people were arrested soon afterwards — and more cash seized — at a number of separate locations in Phibsborough, about a mile from Dublin city center. Cops also seized six cars. Three of those held failed in a High Court bid on Monday to have their detentions ruled illegal. On Tuesday two men appeared in court, including the man arrested on the M50, 28-year-old Mark Donoghue from Leggan, Co. Longford. Dublin District Court was told he had two bags with €1.7 million in then and another €40,000 in the trunk of his car. He was accused of laundering the money. The second man, 23-year-old Darren O’Brien, was charged with handling over €1.7 million stolen money. Both were remanded in custody. The other five suspects, including the woman, were released. A file on them is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions who will decide if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute them. Meanwhile, the hunt for other suspects and the remainder of the stolen cash continues. Detectives believe the robbers had inside information. Investi-gators are probing the background of bank employees. The robbery follows a crisis of confidence in Ireland’s public finance sector. The country’s third largest bank, Anglo Irish, is the center of controversy over hidden loans to former chairman Sean FitzPatrick. The bank was nationalized in January as part of the government’s bid to rescue the banking system. Proposals for multi-billion euro recapitalizations of Allied Irish Bank and the Bank of Ireland have been announced.
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