Friday 21 October 2016

Kinahan mob's ruthless rule goes on despite high-profile arrest

No prosecutions have been brought under 2009 Act for 'directing' ­organised crime, writes Jim Cusack

Published 18/09/2016 | 02:30

International raid: A yacht is searched on the Costa del Sol last week in a joint operation between Spanish police and garda where one Irishman was arrested in relation to the murder of Gary Hutch last September
International raid: A yacht is searched on the Costa del Sol last week in a joint operation between Spanish police and garda where one Irishman was arrested in relation to the murder of Gary Hutch last September

The day-to-day savagery conducted by the Kinahan cartel in Dublin continues unchecked despite last week's high-profile arrest of one Irishman in Spain and a single arrest and release without charge in Dublin.

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People in south inner Dublin, speaking strictly on the basis of anonymity, were unimpressed by the headlines generated by the joint garda and Spanish police operation.

In the working-class areas of Dublin, the cartel has now gained largely unchallenged autonomy, not only over illicit drugs supply but over law and order. The organisation imposes brutal rules of discipline over its very large network of minor dealers. People say that the system that props up the cartel is based on the recruitment of children from around the ages of 11 to 13. These are the 'runners' who are used to transport money and drugs around the city.

These boys are impervious to the State's control. They are not detained for any length of time if caught by gardai with drugs or cash under the State's juvenile justice system. The maximum number of 'children', that is youths under the age of 18, that can be detained at any time is around 40 following the destruction of one of the accommodation units in the State's only youth detention centre at Oberstown in north county Dublin last month. There are around 3,500 under-18s before the courts either facing or having been convicted on criminal charges.

The State's provisions for detention, court appearances and other measures such as supposed supervision by probation officers, 'youth diversion' schemes and 'restorative justice' are not regarded in any way as preventative measures, residents in one of the city's inner suburbs told the Sunday Independent.

One man described the alternative system of justice and administration imposed by the cartel, saying: "Kids from around 11 or 12 here begin carrying drugs. They can't be touched by the law at all. When they are 13, 14 or 15 they've moved up a notch and are handling more stuff. That's when the trouble starts. If they're caught by gardai and the drugs or money is seized, they get one warning from the gang and then the second time they get stabbed. Fellas from Crumlin are sent down and they stab the kids. They have to accept it. It's gruesome."

He said the stabbings and beatings that are administered by the gang/cartel are 'never' reported to the Garda. "The kids hate the guards and that's one of the big problems. They get hassled by the gardai and they have no one, no one to turn to. It's their fate and they accept it. Some can't take it."

He said suicide is not uncommon among teenagers caught up in the cycle of violence under which the cartel operates.

The exploitation of child and slave labour extends across the illicit drugs economy. Farmers who produce the cannabis and cocaine that constitute the main part of the drugs market in Ireland and across Europe are massively and systematically oppressed. A farmer producing cannabis in northern Morocco receives around €10 or €12 per kilo of product, according to EU-sponsored studies.

By the time this is retailed to recreational users, the profit per kilo is in or around €20,000, roughly the same amount Spanish police showed being seized in Marbella last week and allegedly linked to the Kinahan cartel.

South American farmers who supply the coca leaf used in the production of cocaine are also kept on bare subsistence existences, as are the opium poppy growers in Asia.

Heroin addiction has spread across Ireland and is said by gardai to be the major cause of the dramatic rise in robberies and larceny in the farming and village communities across the country. Addicts outside Dublin do not have access to the methadone treatment centres that their 20,000 or so counterparts in Dublin have.

Cork gardai say the heroin problem in the city has been rising steadily from a position 10 years ago when heroin was little more than a niche drug. Eastern European gangsters, who work for the cartel, are said to be responsible for the rise in heroin supply in Cork city and its environs.

The response of the garda and other European police forces remains static amid an increasingly confused response to illegal drugs and addiction. Ireland remains one of the countries which purports to pursue a 'zero-tolerance' approach to illegal drugs.

Figures published by the Central Statistics Office, supplied by the Garda, suggest that the policing response here continues to consist largely of mass prosecutions of mainly young people for 'simple' possession. The latest CSO figures for the year to the end of March 2016 show that 15,851 people were arrested and charged in relation to 'controlled drug offences'. Of these, some 11,185 were arrested and charged for 'personal use', a 0.1pc increase on the same period for 2014-2015.

Around 3,500 people are charged every year with possession with intent to supply but these are mainly low-level dealers who sell to feed their own addictions and are usually arrested in street raids by gardai in town and city centres. Only 21 people were charged with importation of drugs in the year to the end of March. This, again, is in keeping with average figures over the past decade and more and, Garda sources say, is not indicative of charges relating to high-level major seizures. Most 'importation' charges relate to small amounts of drugs found during routine searches of people arriving at ports and airports.

Over the past decade around 150,000 people have received criminal records as a result of being arrested for possession of small amounts of illegal drugs. This, residents in the areas under the control of the cartel say, is in itself of self-perpetuating benefit to the cartel.

"If you are a young fella living here and you have limited prospects of getting a job and a place to live, and then you get a drugs conviction, you're f***ed. You've no other way to make a living. You can't get a good job and you can't emigrate for work because you have a criminal conviction."

The view in the neighbourhoods around the inner city is that the 'big boys' remain untouched by Garda operations. The Garda has yet to use the organised crime legislation introduced by the government in 2009 under the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act. This has been used outside Dublin successfully in Galway and Limerick but, for reasons that remain uncertain, not in Dublin. The offence of directing a criminal organisation carries up to life imprisonment under the act.

Gardai say that one of the reasons there is no concerted action against the cartel's central management is that the force no longer has the ability to mount and prosecute a major organised crime case. One of the prerequisites involved in prosecuting an organised crime is producing a witness who is prepared to testify under oath in court. There are currently no protected witnesses prepared to give evidence in any organised crime case.

A Garda public attitude survey showed that around one in three people did not report crime to gardai. The majority, over a third, said they did not do so because they didn't believe the gardai would do anything. Six per cent said they didn't report crime for fear of retaliation.

Gardai and residents in inner city Dublin said 'no one' is prepared to report any criminal activity by anyone associated with the Kinahan Cartel, particularly since its latest onslaught against the Hutch gang which has resulted in at least 11 murders including those of two innocent men, Trevor O'Neill (40) who was shot dead in front of his partner and three children in Mallorca on August 18, and Martin O'Rourke (26), also shot dead in Dublin on April 14.

One of the last cases in which witnesses voluntarily gave evidence against one of the Kinahan mob was in the case of Liam Byrne, who was briefly detained during last week's high-profile police operations.

Byrne was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for an assault with a baseball bat which caused brain injury to an innocent young man in Crumlin in April 2000.

The victim and his partner agreed to give evidence in return for garda protection. No permanent accommodation was provided and, unable to continue working, the couple and young child were forced into homelessness and separation, and subjected to continuous intimidation and threats to their lives.

Sunday Independent

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