Monaghan: More CAB searches targeted at Irish smuggling gang

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Image source, PA
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Ireland's Criminal Assets Bureau is a multi-agency law enforcement organisation (archive photo)

Five more businesses have been searched in the Irish Republic in a smuggling investigation that "intensified" after the Essex lorry deaths last month.

It is understood that two solicitors' offices; two accountants' offices and a hair salon in Monaghan were searched by Ireland's Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).

It happened on Monday, four days after CAB raided 10 properties in Monaghan.

Two of the properties raided last week belong to the Hughes brothers, wanted for questioning about the Essex deaths.

Forty-year-old Ronan Hughes and his 34-year-old brother Christopher Hughes are wanted on suspicion of the manslaughter of the 39 Vietnamese people found dead in a refrigerated lorry on 23 October.

The brothers, who have links to both County Monaghan and Armagh in Northern Ireland, were identified as suspects by Essex Police at the end of last month.

Image source, Essex Police
Image caption,
Christopher (left) and Ronan Hughes are wanted on suspicion of manslaughter and human trafficking

The CAB searches in Monaghan were part of a year-long Irish investigation into a gang suspected of international smuggling offences.

Their long-running inquiry was given added impetus following the deaths in Essex last month.

During last week's raids, CAB officials seized quantities of cash in different currencies and a number of vehicles.

The bureau also secured court orders to freeze 20 bank accounts holding about €200,000 (£170,000) in total.

This article was based on public announcements and appeals made by Essex Police at the relevant time. Christopher Hughes denies any involvement in these offences and Essex Police has since confirmed no further action will be taken against him. Since the publication of this article, his older brother, Ronan Hughes, 41, and Maurice Robinson, 26, both of County Armagh, have pleaded guilty to manslaughter. On 21 December 2020, the Crown Court, sitting at the Old Bailey, found Eamonn Harrison, 24 of Newry, County Down, and Gheorghe Nica, 43 of Basildon, Essex, guilty of manslaughter and Christopher Kennedy, 24, of County Armagh, and Valentin Calota 38, of Birmingham, guilty of conspiring to assist illegal immigration. Alexandru-Ovidiu Hanga, 28, of Tilbury, Essex, and Gazmir Nuzi, 43, of Tottenham, north London, admitted assisting unlawful immigration. All defendants were sentenced in January 2021.