But the British and Irish governments and all other political parties in both parts of Ireland have blamed the IRA, which is Ireland's most proficient robber of banks.
The operation involved months of planning. Gangs with inside knowledge of the Northern Bank's operations held hostage the families of two key security employees of the bank, and forced them to empty the main cash vault after closing time. The alarm wasn't raised until hours after the robbers' getaway, when the wife of one of the coerced bank workers stumbled out of a forest south of Belfast.
Spokesmen for the police forces in both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland cautioned that, while the Northern Bank raid was the focus for the raids, at least some money seized could be from other IRA rackets.
The modern IRA, founded in December 1969 in Northern Ireland, for decades has run an ever-expanding range of criminal enterprises, including robbery and smuggling fuel and cigarettes. Anti-racketeering authorities estimate that the IRA generates at least 7 million pounds (euro10 million; US$13 million) in illicit revenues annually.