An ‘under-the-radar’ farmer who works land in rural Co Kildare has been arrested in connection with the biggest drugs bust of the year.
The 46-year-old, who had no known previous involvement in organised crime, is being quizzed by specialist detectives following the seizure of drugs valued at €8.2m.
This included a €7.4m cannabis haul in Co Kildare and 11kg of cocaine, valued at €770,000, found in a follow-up search of a car.
Sources say the farmer “fell on hard times” in recent years and may have been groomed by a gang because of his own drug use.
A 49-year-old criminal who gardaí suspect is trusted by the country’s major gangs to move drugs for them is also being questioned.
This man is originally from Co Sligo and has been a suspect in the theft of plant machinery and the large scale importation of illegal drugs in vintage tractors from continental Europe.
Senior sources say he had close links to criminal Cyril ‘Dublin Jimmy’ McGuinness who died of a heart attack in November, 2019, in Derbyshire, England.
McGuinness fell ill when police raided a safe-house as part of a major arrest operation involving three police forces in connection with the abduction of QIH executive Kevin Lunney.
Two drugs trafficking networks from Dublin are being probed for controlling the €7.4m haul of cannabis which was seized on Thursday.
Senior sources say detectives are probing whether associates of Derek ‘Dee Dee’ O’Driscoll were working with a Clondalkin-based gang which is responsible for multiple murders in that locality.
“It does seem to be an odd pairing when you consider the past history of these different criminal organisations,” a source said.
“B ut in gangland money counts for everything and this seizure will really hurt the gangs involved ,” the source added.
The huge bust is the biggest so far this year.
The two men were arrested following a search of a property in the Straffan area of Co Kildare.
They are being detained at Naas garda station.
‘Dee Dee’ O’Driscoll has multiple previous convictions, including for bribing a garda, violent disorder and perverting the course of justice.
The 47-year-old criminal is at the centre of a lengthy garda investigation into an extortion campaign in which council workers and contractors were targeted.
Bank accounts to the value of more than €250,000 controlled by O’Driscoll and his close associate David Reilly were frozen by the Criminal Assets Bureau after the High Court was told in October, 2019 that the money was raised through extortion and running protection rackets.
The other gang being probed about Thursday’s huge bust is led by a crack cocaine dealer who was previously arrested in relation to the murder of Dean Johnson (21), an innocent victim of a Clondalkin feud, who was gunned down in 2013.
Since the murder of Mr Johnson, gardaí believe this criminal has “risen up the crime ladder” to become a senior member of the Clondalkin-based organised crime gang.
The drug trafficker and his gang were involved in a bitter local feud with James ‘Nellie’ Walsh and his associates, which claimed four lives before tensions in the feud eased at the start of last year with his mob coming out on top.
In a statement, Detective Chief Superintendent Angela Willis, h ead of the Garda National Drugs & Organised Crime Bureau , said: “The operation undertaken today involving participation by the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and personnel in the DMR, which has resulted in the seizure of illicit drugs with an estimated street value of €7.4m, demonstrates An Garda Síochána’s continued determination to tackling the supply of controlled drugs, that cause significant harm and misery in our communities.
“ We will continue to target those who are engaged in the distribution of illicit drugs and tackle criminality engaged by organised crime gangs who benefit from such activity.”
Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, who is the head of Organised and Serious Crime, said: “The significant success being achieved by members of the Garda Síochána throughout the organisation in tackling serious and organised crime in the challenging circumstances arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, is outstanding and reflects their considerable ability and dedication.”
It is the latest large bust carried out by detectives from the GNDOCB after €2.5m worth of cannabis was seized in north Dublin last Wednesday.
Two men were arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking following an intelligence operation involving members of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) and Revenue.
Gardaí were alerted after a shipment passed through Dublin Port before being transported to Lusk where it was seized.
In total, 129kg of suspected cannabis herb with an estimated street value of €2.58m, was seized.
Two men, aged 45 and 52, were arrested as part of the investigation.
So far this year the GNDOCB has seized more than €11m worth of drugs and over €2m in c ash.