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Seven arrested near Dublin in connection with $9m bank robbery

By Shawn Pogatchnik
Associated Press / March 1, 2009
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DUBLIN - Police recovered millions in stolen cash and interrogated seven suspected robbers yesterday, a day after a gang took a bank employee's family hostage and forced him to rob his own branch. Investigators said $9 million was taken from the bank, about a third of which has been recovered.

Shortly before midnight, police raided a house in the north Dublin district of Phibsborough and stopped a car on a highway ringing Dublin.

Sergeant Alan Roughneen said five men and a woman were arrested in Phibsborough, and one man was arrested in the car. Authorities also seized six cars, checking to see if they were used to move hostages or money.

On Friday, six armed, masked men stormed into the rural home of Bank of Ireland worker Shane Travers. They tied up his partner, her 5-year-old son, and her mother, and told Travers they would be killed unless he cooperated.

One of the women was struck with a vase but no shots were fired, police said. Three of the men were armed with handguns and one had a shotgun.

Such hostage-taking tactics are common in Ireland's criminal underworld, but never in Republic of Ireland history have they netted anything close to the amount that Travers carried out from his branch Friday morning.

His family had been abandoned inside a van north of Dublin, but escaped on their own.

Initially, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and police chiefs questioned Travers's apparent failure to notify police until after he had handed over the mountain of cash. That violated police and bank instructions on how to handle a bank robbery involving hostage-taking.

So-called "tiger kidnappings" - in which gangs seize families of bank officials and force them to breach their employers' security - are common crimes in Ireland, a close-knit society where criminals can closely track their targets. But they typically involve much smaller amounts.

Friday's raid on the Bank of Ireland branch in College Green, the tourist heart of Dublin, represented by far the biggest robbery in the history of the Republic of Ireland.

But it pales in comparison with a similar 2004 raid in the neighboring British territory of Northern Ireland, when two Northern Bank employees were forced to help a gang take about $38 million from the bank's central Belfast vault.

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