Crying game only worked once on the jury
MICHAEL Byrne was regarded by gardai as the most significant drug trafficker supplying the west Dublin market.
His arrest followed a major operation by detectives from the garda national drugs unit.
Byrne, who lived in a council house in Clondalkin, provided the Dublin "connection" for an international drugs gang, operating out of Manchester.
That gang was led by Seanie Comerford, who was originally from Ballyfermot, and he organised large shipments of heroin for the Dublin market.
Byrne acted as a wholesaler and split up the shipments to be handed out to street traffickers, who then diluted the drugs before selling them.
He graduated into the drugs racket after being a member of the M50 gang, who carried out late night rallying in stolen cars.
Byrne was linked to the garda seizure of 18kg of heroin, with a street value of £4.5m, as it was being brought in through Dun Laoghaire port in a rented car in 1998. But he was never charged.
The investigation into the find uncovered how the gang were smuggling in the drugs.
The heroin was concealed in door panels in the rented vehicles. The panels were then stripped out and after the drugs had been removed the vehicles were sent back to the UK.
Inquiries into car rental records showed that Byrne had organised 10 previous drug "runs" involving rented vehicles.
The heroin was being brought from Afghanistan to Pakistan, through Turkey and the UK and into this country.
But in 2003 he was arrested and charged following the seizure of 8kg of heroin, as it was being handed over, outside a pub in west Dublin.
He broke down in the witness box and said his evidence that he believed the packages contained mobile phones rather than drugs. He was believed by the jury and acquitted.
Comerford, meanwhile, was caught in Manchester and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.
Byrne was regarded as a hands-on operator who did not trust his associates and was directly involved in the shipments. After his arrest, leading to yesterday's sentencing, gardai seized €60,000 in cash and three cars, including a BMW X5. This is currently under investigation by the drug unit's financial section.
Byrne again broke down in tears during the current trial. But this time his crying did not influence the jury and he was convicted.
Speaking outside of the court yesterday, Detective Sergeant Gregory Sheehan of the Garda National Drugs Unit said he hoped that Judge Frank O'Donnell's sentence would send out a "salutary" lesson to high-end drug dealers to "desist" their operations.