Up to 120 BMW cars stolen in a sophisticated cross-border key cloning racket were to be dismantled and shipped to Latvia, the High Court has heard.
An eastern European crime gang suspected of stealing the high-value vehicles from the Dublin area and moving them to garages in Northern Ireland was operating in several jurisdictions, prosecutors said.
Police forces in England have also carried out searches as part of an investigation jointly led by gardai and the PSNI.
Further details emerged as bail was granted to one of four men charged in connection with the thefts carried out over the last 11 months.
Vitalijs Klagiss, a 29-year-old Latvian national with an address at Brackenwood Drive in Dublin, is accused of handling stolen property.
He was arrested along with the other suspects after police swooped on a garage in Enniskillen on May 27.
Officers discovered eight vehicles, six of them BMWs, and parts taken from 10 other stolen cars, the court heard.
A car alarm jammer, and BMW key cloner which reads the security system and laptop computers have also been seized at addresses linked to the investigation.
Some of the equipment was found during a raid on Klagiss’ home, it was claimed.
A prosecution lawyer added that two co-accused are believed to have travelled from England to assist in vehicle transportation.
Essex and West Midlands police have now searched properties linked to them.
“Police believe this gang are operating in different jurisdictions,” the prosecutor said.
“Approximately 120 BMWs were stolen from the greater Dublin area since September 2013.”
She disclosed that detectives believe eastern Europeans were breaking the cars up to be put in containers and shipped back to Latvia.
As well as the vehicle owners, motor insurance companies have also suffered losses, the court was told.
Prosecution counsel added: “Since the arrests there have been no reported thefts of BMWs in the Dublin area. Prior to this they were almost on a nightly basis.”
A defence lawyer argued, however, that Klagiss would not flee if released because his partner and family are now based in Ireland.
Mr Justice Weatherup accepted there is evidence which allegedly links the accused to the crime operation.
But noting Klagiss has lived in the Dublin area since 2005 he ruled that bail should be granted on a £5,000 cash surety.
Ordering him to live at an address in Belfast and not to leave Northern Ireland, the judge also directed that he must only travel in a vehicle identified to police.