Police today said tackling organised crime was a “high priority” for the force after a man admitted his part in attempts to steal cash machines.
Detective superintendent Graeme Mackie spoke out after Peter O’Brien, 34, appeared at the High Court in Aberdeen and admitted his involvement in the attempted thefts in October 2013.
However, the court heard that although O’Brien was pleading guilty to the charges, it was accepted he was not there at the time.
The crimes were carried out by others, who have since been convicted.
O’Brien provided the men with an Audi used in the attempted thefts as well as allowing them to stay at his flat in Aberdeen during the planning and commission of the crimes.
He admitted that while acting along with others he broke into to Clydesdale Bank on Stonehaven’s Ann Street with intent to steal.
O’Brien admitted a further charge of breaking into the Bank of Scotland at Constitution Street, also while acting along with others, with intent to steal.
The theft bids saw gas being pumped into the machines in an attempt to cause an explosion to free the cash. The offences took place on October 28, 2013.
He further admitted failing to appear in court on April 25, 2016.
His not guilty pleas to the remaining charges, including cash machine raids and attempted ATM thefts, were accepted by the Crown.
Following O’Brien’s court appearance, Det Supt Mackie, who was the senior investigating officer, said: “These incidents which happened in 2013 were dangerous and carried out with no regard for the safety of the public.
“They caused a great deal of concerns among the communities of the North-east.
“The police investigation was extensive and involved working with specialist officers, forces across the UK and other partner agencies.
“I would like to thank the public for assisting with this inquiry and continue to encourage people to contact the police and report any suspicious activity or anything they have concerns about.
“I would also commend the partnership working between the police and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in bringing about the convictions of those responsible.
“Serious and Organised Crime is a high priority and we will continue to work hard to ensure the North-east remains a hostile environment for such activity.”
During O’Brien’s appearance, Advocate Depute Keith O’Mahony told the court: “During the course of 2013, 11 thefts and attempted thefts were made to access ATMs throughout the North-east of Scotland by criminal means.
“The attempted means of access to the ATMs was similar on each occasion, that being to force entry to the machine via the cash dispensing slot using a crowbar followed by the introduction of a mixture of oxygen and acetylene gas into the machine.”
The court was told this was done in an attempt to cause an explosion and free the cash boxes inside.
Mr O’Mahony added: “In light of the various thefts and attempted thefts, the police instigated Operation Thrip in order to target these crimes.”
The court was told O’Brien was arrested in Aberdeen on October 31 after police saw him driving a car which matched the description of a vehicle used in the Stonehaven ATM theft bid.
Mr O’Mahony said: “The accused was apprehended as he walked towards the car.
As the officers approached the accused, he was seen throwing a small item into a nearby garden.
“The police searched the garden and found an Audi car key which fitted an Audi car parked nearby which was then searched.
“Found within were wires, gloves, a charger unit, various rolls of tapes, fuses, a torch and false registration plates.”
The depute added: “The plea is tendered and accepted on the basis the accused O’Brien was not present at the attempted thefts.”
He added that O’Brien had “provided support” to those who had executed the theft bids.
However, he also said that it was understood that O’Brien’s mitigation will be that he was “threatened” and that “influenced his participation”, in the crimes.
Mr O’Mahony said: “That is not disputed by the Crown.
“However, the plea is tendered and accepted on the basis that the accused O’Brien had opportunities to contact police in respect of those threats in advance of the crimes being carried out and failed to do so.”
Judge Lord Matthews told O’Brien, whose address was given in court papers as St Luke’s Close, Merthyr Tydfil, that he would be sentenced next month.
He is remanded in custody until then.