Sunday 18 March 2018

A clear and present danger

The Kinahan cartel has recruited Dublin’s street dealers and addicts for its murderous gang war

Armed gardai on patrol in Ballybough in Dublin's north inner city
Armed gardai on patrol in Ballybough in Dublin's north inner city
CCTV footage of Gareth Hutch being shot dead by two assassins
The victims of the bloody feud include Gary Hutch
Eddie Hutch
Noel Duggan Photo: Sunday World
Gareth Hutch
Michael Barr
Martin O'Rourke
Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

One of the last times Christy Kinahan was arrested in Ireland was when he flew home for the funeral of his late father, who had worked as a creamery manager on the north side of Dublin. Detectives waited at the gates of the cemetery in Sutton. They didn’t want to disturb the service. After the burial, Kinahan went with them quietly.

In custody he talked for hours but revealed nothing except his startling knowledge of Niccolo Machiavelli, the Italian Renaissance writer whose name became synonymous with amoral political scheming.

He repeated mantras from Machiavelli such as “keep your enemies close” and “the end justifies the means”.  His grandiose outpourings were in contrast to the grubby crime for which he’d been arrested.

Kinahan was released without charge and returned to his overseas base to resume building up a criminal empire.

Until recently he lived behind a gated villa in Estepona on the Costa del Sol with a security detail made of up henchmen from the working class Dublin suburbs, and his two sons, Daniel and Christopher Junior, by his side.

According to the detectives who have tracked the ruthless progress of this drug trafficking dynasty over the last 16 years, Kinahan shifted focus to Dubai, at one time regarded as money laundering Mecca for criminals.

The plan was to lie low among expat millionaires and oversee his property empire of apartments and villas.  His sons stayed in Spain to run the drug trafficking business. 

But Kinahan’s hopes for a classy early retirement have not worked out. “His sons have made a balls of it,” said one senior source.

For the past two months, Kinahan has been credited with directing the most murderous gangland feud ever waged in the capital, giving his Dublin henchmen his chosen targets for assassination by phone from Dubai – targeting members of the Hutch gang, a criminal  outfit of more modest means but equal ruthlessness in the north inner city.

But what may have started as a brutally efficient take-out on either side has descended into a dangerously chaotic shooting spree, manipulated the Kinahan gang, according to senior officers.

Like some warped Game of Thrones, a contract to kill has been tossed into the bear pit of Dublin’s street dealers and gougers,  offering money, drugs or debt write-offs for anyone who takes out a Hutch.

The so called feud between the Kinahan cartel and the Hutch gang began with the murder of Gary Hutch last September. 

Once a loyal lieutenant of Daniel Kinahan’s, the gang suspected he was a tout because he was the only man not in the country when Spanish police raided their assets. 

His life was spared when his uncle, the notorious Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch, stepped in.

The Monk and Kinahan were peers of a sort. Hutch was a north inner city anti-hero, the supposed mastermind of a string of high value bank robberies, who then ploughed his money into property, paid off the CAB, and supposedly went straight. 

He struck a deal with Christy Kinahan, paying €200,000 to spare his nephew’s life. Kinahan took the money but still had Gary shot.

In what is suspected of  being  spectacular retaliation by the Hutch gang, gunmen stormed the Regency Hotel last February where Kinahan’s mob had gathered for a boxing weigh-in.  David Byrne, one of Kinahan’s closest lieutenants, was shot dead.

Retribution has been swift and merciless. 

Gerry Hutch’s taxi driver brother, Eddie, was shot dead taking shopping into his flat on Poplar Row in the North Strand; Hutch’s best friend, Noel Duggan, a one-time cigarette smuggler, was shot dead outside his home in Ratoath; Michael Barr, a dissident republican who was suspected of being involved in the Regency Hotel attack, was shot dead in the Sunset House pub, in Ballybough. The next victim was an innocent man, Martin O’Rourke, murdered on Sheriff Street in a case of mistaken identity — the intended target was a Hutch associate he was with.

The latest murder occurred at 10am last Tuesday morning as Gareth Hutch was about to get into his car after leaving left his flat at Avondale House on North Cumberland Street.

He was the seventh victim of a gang war that has become more dangerous and volatile with every passing death.

The murders have — all bar one — been committed by the Kinahans’ side.

According to sources, Christy Kinahan is no longer the main driving force in this thirst for vengance. His henchmen in Crumlin – all of them David Byrne’s friends and associates – are leading the crusade of retribution, intent on avenging the murder of their slain colleague.

They do so at one remove, according to informed sources. The cartel has recruited Dublin’s street dealers and addicts for its murderous gang war. They have done so by offering ‘contracts’ to the city’s junkies and thugs, making it known that there is money, drugs or debt write-downs on offer for a hit on the Hutches.

If this was not  lure enough, Kinahan’s Crumlin henchmen are piling on the pressure by calling in drug debts, according to community sources.

They report rumoursof 300 kilos of Christy Kinahan’s cocaine is sitting in a Dublin warehouse waiting to be distributed by his Crumlin henchmen. In the meantime, they have been trading the cocaine for a hit on the Hutches.

Those best placed to take up the Kinahan cartel’s offer are those already living among the Hutches, behind the enemy lines, with “spotters” on street corners to dodge the armed garda unit patrolling the north inner city streets.

When Gareth Hutch was shot dead  on Tuesday morning, the “shooter’s” name spread like wildfire through the community.

Niall Ring, an independent councillor whose office is on Ballybough Road in the heart of the north inner city, said he was told within an hour who “had done it”.  “It was common knowledge. He lived in a flat about 200 yards from here,” he said.

Gareth Hutch had come to Ring at his office the day before he died looking for help in persuading Dublin City Council’s housing office to allow him move to another flat.  He knew he was on the Kinahan hit list.

Gardai had given him the official piece of paper — known as a GIM (Garda Information Message) — informing him of “credible intelligence” about a threat on his life.

Gareth Hutch felt that the upper floor flat he lived in off North Cumberland Street was too exposed. He had his six-year-old son over four days a week and his big fear was that the child would witness something happening to his father.

“His fear was that they would get over the balcony and do something to him in front of his son ... It was almost as if he was resigned to something happening to him,” said Ring. “I knew by his demeanour that he was not in a good place.”

Ring wrote a letter and got him a housing appointment the following morning.  Ring believes Hutch was probably on his way to the City Council offices when he was shot. The two gunmen were caught on CCTV cameras and witnessed by a host of bystanders. In their panic they could not start their getaway car and fled on foot.  

A man who lives in the community turned himself in to gardai a short time later, fearing for his life.

He claimed that everyone thought he was one of the gunmen because his house had been searched by detectives in the aftermath of the shooting. He is still in custody this weekend.   Another local — a woman — was arrested on Thursday. The gunmen may have used her for cover while they waited for Gareth Hutch to leave his flat.

Local people say the Kinahan cartel’s reach is frightening. “The way it works is they are giving kids money for minding drugs — €100 a week or else a hundred quid’s worth of gear. He starts using drugs, suddenly he is minding it for nothing and the next thing he owes the Kinahan’s €20,000,” said Ring. 

“The problem is the kids get drug debts, and the gangs are now coming after the parents.”

In Coolock a few months ago, a young mother heard glass smashing in the window of the bedroom where her baby slept, he said. It turned out her brother had a drug debt that he had not paid.

“We suspect it was the Kinahans – he owed big players big money. We tried to mediate a solution. But the bottle was thrown through his sister’s house, and into the baby’s window,” he said.   The dealer’s father went on to sell the family home, according to Ring.  

The gang warfare has exposed alarming deficits in Garda intelligence. Worrying questions about the Garda response persist. How can the force’s intelligence units have almost totally shut down on the biggest criminal murder campaign the city has seen?

How is that gun-toting hitmen are able to sidestep armed patrol units stalking the streets of the north inner city to execute a “target” a few hundred metres away?

“It is chaotic,” said one senior source. “It’s not like these fellas (street dealers) are ringing up Christy Kinahan looking for permission. There is no planning, there is no orchestration. These people are off their heads and desperate, and they will take their opportunity where they see it.” 

Seasoned gardai say the chaos makes it harder for them to get advance intelligence on who’s next on the list, and almost impossible to pre-empt the next murder.  One source said last week: “It’s like duck shooting season in the north inner city.”

Intelligence on who’s who on both sides of this feud has been circulated to stations in the north and south of the city. 

Gardai have identified around 60 associates linked to the cartel headed by

Christy Kinahan and around 70  people on the Hutches’ side. All 130 of them  cannot be ruled out as potential targets.

Most of Kinahan’s associates live on the streets of Crumlin, close to the Raleigh Square, where David Byrne was from and where his parents and brothers still live.   Among them are Liam Roe,  a cousin of David Byrne’s, and the infamous ‘Fat’ Freddy Thompson, the drug dealer suspected of being the enforcer for the Kinahan gang in Dublin, the man who calls in the debts.

One of Kinahan’s long standing associates is suspected of directing operations for the cartel from a mansion in Birmingham.

Other associates are old hands from Kinahan’s time in Oliver Bond flats in the south inner city.

They include Gerard Brady, a criminal who still lives in Oliver Bond, and his son Greg Lynch, a convicted drug dealer who was caught in the car park of the Red Cow Inn in Naas with €400,000 worth of heroin in 2004. 

Two other targets are involved in a car dealership in west Dublin.

The intelligence also reveals enclave of Kinahan foot soldiers in Tallaght – more than a dozen young men who are linked in one way or another to the gang. 

On the Hutch side,  gardai have identified almost 70 members of the extended family and their associates,most totally innocent, who are caught up in the feud. 

The vast majority of them live in a small radius in the north inner city stretching from Sheriff Street at one end to the North Circular Road on the other.

Gerry Hutch is the most hunted of all the Hutches, and the most elusive. He is reportedly continually on the move. His wife, Patricia and his children, who are no longer thought to be living at the family home in Clontarf.

In with them are 20 Hutch “associates”. Some are earmarked as potentially violent and others as having access to guns.  One associate is suspected of subversive activity, according the sources.

There are more than 40 family members in all, half of them women, most of them wives and daughters of Gerry Hutch’s three brothers and four sisters, and others who are girlfriend and partners of the extended network of nieces and nephews. 

Even their children have become caught up in the warfare. “Schools with a Hutch or a Kinahan are being included in patrols. Gardai are there when the schools are opening and closing. It is part of the patrol,” said one source.

A private school in south Dublin attended by a student who is related to the Hutch family is getting security advice from the gardai, which shows the alarming reach of this gang warfare, taking it out of the trenches of drug dealing and into the heart of middle class life.

Perhaps that’s what it will take to end the feud.

“If an entire community of so many people was targeted like this on the southside of Dublin, in Dalkey or Dun Laoghaire, there would be a garda on every street corner and there would be helicopters, possibly even the army on the streets,” said one source close to the conflict last week.

The Taoiseach has promised a task force and the Criminal Assets Bureau has escalated its financial investigations. The chief superintendent of the division said he is “100 per cent confident” of finding the killers. The low level ones have left a trail of clues.

But gardai are hamstrung  by resource and intelligence deficits that leave them struggling to catch up.

No one knows who is next or where it will end. Most gardai expect another “spectacular” launched from the Hutch side. 

“The best guess is that whatever is going to happen will be on the southside and it will be big,” warned one source.

Sunday Independent

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