€300m English drugs baron lived quiet life in Ireland
AN English 'businessman' who lived from 1996 in a large but not particularly extravagant dormer bungalow at Straffan, Co Kildare has turned out to be one of Ireland's richest drug-traffickers.
Neighbours thought Philip Baron, 57, who has pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court to conspiracy to import cannabis and cocaine estimated at €300m, owned a deckchair company in Spain and had an interest in a golf course in England.
Baron, a former truck driver from Manchester, led one of the most successful drug-trafficking operations in Britain and Ireland. The gang was broken up by British police over the past two years.
Baron was extradited to Britain in 2011 and last month he pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy. He is to be sentenced in June. Twenty-eight members of his gang have been sentenced so far.
He is among a small group of Ireland's richest criminals, all aged from their 50s to their 70s, who mostly kept ahead of the law and made fortunes from their drugs-, tobacco- and fuel-smuggling operations.
Former Provisional IRA leaders figure prominently in the criminal rich list. The former 'officer commanding' of the IRA's 'southern command' is thought to be one of the richest ex-pat criminals involved in massive cigarette-smuggling operations.
In his mid-60s, he once lived in Tallaght but moved to Spain in the 1990s. His head of distribution operations in Dublin is another former IRA man who escaped a €2m tax demand from the Criminal Assets Bureau some years ago.
Another name on the list is Georgie 'The Penguin' Mitchell, 72, who is regarded as Ireland's biggest drugs trafficker. Mitchell rose from petty crime in the south inner-city in the 1970s to involvement in drug-smuggling in the 1980s.
He has quietly become one of Europe's major drug dealers, involved in trafficking cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy. He relocated from Holland to north Africa some years ago.
Christy Kinahan, who was released last month from a Belgium prison after serving two years for money-laundering, is said to have acquired property and assets valued at €500m after his arrest during a pan-European police operation in May 2010.
Of the drug and tobacco traffickers resident in Ireland, one of the richest is a little-known man in his 60s from Co Clare, who gardai believe has been involved in large-scale importation of drugs, tobacco and counterfeit goods since the early 1990s. His operation was almost closed down after two of the feuding Limerick families began muscling in on him six years ago. But after they had either killed each other or gone to prison, he remained in business and is regarded as one of Ireland's richest but most anonymous criminals.
The biggest-earning drug trafficker resident in Dublin is believed to be a 29-year-old who lives in a corporation flat in the south inner-city when he is not enjoying his illicit earnings on the Costa del Sol.
He has one conviction for possession of heroin and heads a network of more than 200 street dealers. The sources of his drugs include former members of 'The General' Martin Cahill's gang who have been resident in Spain for decades. The northside of Dublin's wealthiest drugs-trafficker controls the gang which assassinated 'dissident' republican Alan Ryan last year.
This 34-year-old rapidly expanded his heroin operation and gardai believe he became very wealthy after linking with traffickers in Northern Ireland and the north of England.