£1m worth of beer kegs recovered in Northern Ireland - two arrests
Bar owners in Northern Ireland have been warned to be vigilant after police recovered £900,000 worth of stolen beer kegs.
They were discovered over the past few weeks after searches in Mallusk and Omagh as part of an investigation into organised crime.
The empty aluminium kegs belong to a drinks distributor and have an estimated value of £70-80 each, which could mean that more than 12,000 were stolen.
Two men, both aged 55, have been arrested on suspicion of theft and have since been released on bail pending further enquiries.
Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster said that while he had heard about the thefts, he hadn't expected it to be on such a scale.
He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I'd heard a rumour about this but it's far more than I ever would have thought. This is clearly a huge scale operation, if it's that level of organised crime God knows what else this money is being used to fund."
Mr Neill said he believed the items had been stolen systematically and urged bar and restaurant owners to be on their guard.
"Obviously, if £900,000 worth of kegs are taken out of circulation they have to be replaced.
"That cost goes on the product which means the customer can be charged more," he said.
"I would really congratulate the PSNI in apprehending two people and would call on people with any evidence to come forward.
"I would also appeal to licensed premises to do all they can to limit theft, keeping kegs under lock and key."
Detective Chief Inspector Dunny McCubbin said the thefts have a significant financial impact on businesses and that the investigation was continuing. He added: "We are committed to bringing offenders before the courts and I would appeal to anyone with information on this type of activity to contact detectives in Antrim or Omagh by calling 101 or alternatively you can speak anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. I would also remind the owners of licensed premises to be alert to this type of crime and ensure that their premises and stock are secure."
Kieran McCann, manager of McCann's Pub in Omagh, said that over the last two years, his drinks supplier Diageo has performed a monthly stock check of all empty kegs on the premises.
"They have certainly been a lot more vigilant after a previous theft of kegs in Dublin," he said.
"I do know other premises may get their kegs from elsewhere like a cash-and-carry so they would need to be careful."