Friday 21 June 2019

Eamon Dillon: 'How I came face to face with Iranian gangland victim Hamid Sanambar'

Hamid Sanambar, who was shot in Coolock
Hamid Sanambar, who was shot in Coolock

Eamon Dillon

FOUR years ago Hamid Sanambar had a story to tell.

Meeting him in a sparse Longford apartment, the tattooed Iranian told a bizarre story about his immersion into the Irish criminal underworld.

Hamid Sanambar
Hamid Sanambar

Back then he didn’t have the scorpion tattoo on his ear, nor the two teardrops on his right cheek, with each the supposed mark of a life taken.

He was a fast talker and barely drew breath during a 90-minute torrent of information about Irish criminal gangs from across the country.

Read more here: 'We will not let gangsters glorify crime at funerals' - Archbishop

In June 2015, Sanambar contacted the Sunday World, unprompted, looking to speak about criminality in his adopted county of Longford.

Hamid Sanambar
Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Hamid Sanambar Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

He claimed that a criminal gang posing as refugees living in Longford were carrying out dozens of well-organised scams.

Sanambar showed a lot more ambition than most callers to newspapers, who are looking to share a bit of information anonymously. He wasn’t proposing a one-off deal; he wanted a partnership.

He wanted to work together with a journalist to provide a glimpse into Ireland’s seedy underworld.

Somehow this Iranian man had a gift for inveigling his way into the lives of criminals and gangsters and he wanted to make money from it.

Sanambar seemed to know a lot about the criminal underworld in Ireland and how it worked and he certainly dropped the right names.

The names of gangland criminals from Dublin and Limerick were thrown into the mix, names that few people outside of crime journalism, the Gardaí or the criminal underworld would have heard.

He talked in detail about members of a traveller clan in the region and their dealings in the drugs business and their connections, as well as the sex trade.

Read more here: Gardaí probe if Iranian gangland victim was shot dead with gun owned by murdered man

He made a big show of checking the blinds, looking over his shoulder as if he knew all about surveillance.

However, it was impossible to tell where fact and fiction began and ended with Hamid, who dangled enticing snippets of stories.

He had the look and the air of a man short of cash.

Little of what he said could be verified from other sources and it was hard not to draw the conclusion that he was most likely a clever fraudster.

The only thing for certain was that he could talk.

He explained that he arrived in Ireland as a victim of Iranian police torture.

In his home country he had been singled out partly because some relatives were known as anti-government dissidents, but also because he was admittedly a young hooligan.

He showed off the deep scars on his body, which he said were inflicted by his captors in Iranian jails before he fled to the west.

Sanambar was vague, as he was about a lot of things, on how he came to arrive in Ireland.

Asked about his conviction for the robbery of a brothel in Cork, he spun a story to claim that he was actually the good guy.

In 2015, he had been given a three-year suspended sentence for his role in the violent robbery of two women working in a Cork brothel in 2012.

Cash, laptops and mobile phones to the value of about €5,000 were stolen and one of the women had her jaw broken. The court heard that Sanambar had carried out that robbery with Irish men he claimed to have met road bowling while living in Cork about eight years ago.

However, speaking to our reporter, he claimed that he had told the Gardaí what was going to happen and that he went along to ensure the other perpetrators were caught.

However, after his attempts to become a Garda informant had failed he wanted to try another route.

This week it appears that his claimed ability to mix and mingle with criminals from various walks of life turned out to be true.

How he ended up as part of dangerous gang of young Dublin drug dealers is no doubt down to his ability to walk and talk like a gangster.

Among the Gucci Gang the story went that he was a Syrian hitman and that he was a foreign criminal expert drafted in by the Kinahan Cartel to wipe out the Hutches.

Hamid Sanambar had possibly been busy reinventing himself.

Blamed for setting up Sean Little to be murdered, he thought he could talk his way out of trouble when he went to his wake last week.

Instead it would seem that the refugee from Iran talked his way into an early grave.

Sunday World

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News