Tuesday 26 September 2017

Mastermind behind drug trafficking gang faces sentencing

Tom Brady and Paul Keaveny

The leader of an international drug-trafficking gang, who spent 15 years masterminding his operations from a base within yards of the exclusive K Club in Kildare, is to be sentenced today.

Philip Baron (58) is a close friend of key associates of Ireland's biggest trafficker, Christy Kinahan.

He has already pleaded guilty to smuggling huge shipments of cocaine and cannabis, as well as money laundering.

He lived the life of a wealthy developer at his luxury home at Bawnogues in Straffan, Co Kildare, and mixed freely in top business and social circles.

For two years prior to his arrest he had been the key target of Operation Hinge, which was run by members of the garda national drugs unit and the criminal assets bureau.

Cocaine

He was also at the top of the target list for Operation Beath, a joint enterprise between the national drugs unit and the British serious organised crime agency.

A sentencing hearing at Liverpool Crown Court heard yesterday that Baron had imported two shipments of cocaine, totalling 60kg, which had an estimated street value of €22.4m.

He admitted three counts including conspiracy to import cocaine between March and November 2008, conspiracy to import cannabis between September 2005 and September 2009 and money laundering.

The court heard that a recording device had been placed in the home of Baron's daughter, Rachel.

Rachel Baron was jailed for three years at an earlier hearing for picking up and distributing cash on her father's behalf.

His drug importations were estimated to be worth around €350m and left him in charge of one of the biggest drug smuggling rackets in the UK.

Baron is still under investigation here but Operation Beath brought about his downfall.

Sentencing was adjourned until this morning.

Irish Independent

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