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Bike theft

Lithuanian crime gang suspected of carrying out multi-million bicycle theft racket

The gang is also linked to a €250k bicycle seizure made by gardaí in Dublin at the end of last year.

A LITHUANIAN CRIME gang active in Dublin is suspected of the thefts and distribution of stolen high-end bicycles across Europe, has learned. 

The criminal faction, whose bosses hail from the Plungé and Kaunas areas of Lithuania, has been stealing bicycles for a number of years and ferrying them across Europe to the Baltic state in a trade suspected to be worth millions of euro annually.

The gang is also linked to a €250k bicycle seizure made by gardaí in Dublin at the end of last year. 

In that instance, officers raided a container in the Newcastle area of west Dublin. There they discovered 119 bikes, many valued at over €1,500. Officers are in the process of returning these bikes to their owners.

Gardaí attached to the Pearse Street station’s street crime unit are continuing to liaise with their European counterparts in Europol, the Netherlands, Germany and Lithuania in relation to the criminal enterprise. 

In one instance late last year, a man had his €3,000 VanMoof Electrified S bike stolen from the Camden Street area of Dublin city. Due to the bike’s value, a high-end tracker had been installed on it. 

After realising the bicycle had been stolen, the owner alerted the company via their service app. They set a signal in motion and the bike could then be tracked via its GPS, which ‘pings’ the signal at random intervals.

The bicycle made two trips to an isolated farmhouse near Dunshaughlin. “The bike eventually went direct to Rosslare overnight and was on a ferry to France that night,” he said. 

It then crossed the continent to Kiel, Germany, and was tracked on an overnight ferry to Lithuania.

That particular route is used by this Lithuanian gang, as well as other serious criminal outfits to move illicit products across the continent. 

While high-end bicycles make up much of the Eastern European outfit’s stock, cosmetics and electronics are also moved through these passages. The goods are transported in containers being driven by licenced hauliers, so the contents can be more difficult to detect.

Most of the consignments are moved from Kiel port near Hamburg, Germany to Klaipėda in Lithuania. From there, it is a 40-minute drive to the Plungé area where the bikes are then distributed for sale. 

Bicycle theft and stolen goods importation have become such an issue for Lithuania that a new scheme whereby bikes are registered similar to cars has been brought in. 

Screenshot from 2020-02-06 16-43-03 The Lithuanian bike registration site. https: / / https: / / / /

According to Eltis (The European Local Transport Information Service) those who wish to use the bicycle registration system register as a user on the website.

Once logged on, the user will be able to register their own bikes as well as those of their family members and relatives. Once the bike is registered, the owner is sent a special sticker with a code, which should be placed on the bicycle’s frame.

In the case of theft, the bike will then be highlighted in the system and identified as stolen. The importation of the bikes into Lithuania from Ireland and the UK means there is no chance that these bicycles have been registered on this site.

bikes Some of the bikes recovered by gardaí late last year. Garda Press Office Garda Press Office

The introduction of this system resulted in a reduction of bike thefts in the region, according to Eltis. 

In Ireland, Fianna Fáil has said it plans to create a National Register for bicycles if in Government. Under this scheme, bike owners could register their bicycle with An Garda Síochána and fit it with a unique barcode. 

Gardaí investigating the €250k discovery of bikes in Dublin said they are attempting to reunite owners with their goods. 

A spokesperson last month said: “Gardaí in Pearse Street conducted a search on Thursday morning, 26 December 2019 of a container at allotments in Newcastle, Dublin and located 116 pedal cycles suspected to be stolen property.

“A search warrant was obtained by Gardaí from Pearse Street following ongoing investigations into the theft of bikes in the city centre.

“All items in the container were seized pending further technical examination. It is estimated that the value of the items is approximately €250,000 owing to the uniqueness and specialisation of the items.

“Gardaí from the Street Crime Unit in Pearse Street will endeavour to identify the rightful owners of the pedal cycles in due course and the items that are not returned to owners will be circulated via media in the coming weeks.”

Garreth MacNamee and Cónal Thomas
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