Tuesday 23 October 2018

Hidden in the loft... Terrifying gun cache linked to the Kinahans seized

Assault Rifle, handguns and ammo seized
Assault Rifle, handguns and ammo seized

Eimear Cotter and Ken Foy

THIS is the terrifying cache of firearms linked to the Kinahan cartel which was seized during a massive garda raid on a Dublin warehouse.

As our exclusive photos show, the arsenal of weapons found after officers raided a business unit in Rathcoole last January included nine revolvers, four pistols, a sub-machine gun, an assault rifle and a large quantity of ammunition.

Four of the weapons discovered by the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau were “primed, armed and ready to be utilised”, a court heard.

Two men caught with the firearms and ammunition appeared in court yesterday, where it was heard they were not the “prime movers” in the operation.

James Walsh (33) was described by detectives as a “trusted lieutenant”, while his accomplice Jonathan Harding (44) was “a willing participant” in the operation.

The business unit had been set up to look like a branch of a legitimate UK logistics company, with lever arch files at reception and forklift trucks inside.

However, when gardai searched the loft they found the weapons and ammunition.

Walsh claimed he became involved in the operation because he and one of his brothers owed drug money.

Assault Rifle seized
Assault Rifle seized

He had developed a drug difficulty after his mother died from lung cancer.

Walsh, of Neilstown Drive and Wheatfield Avenue, both in Clondalkin, and Harding, of McNeill Court, Sallins, Co Kildare, had pleaded guilty before the non-jury Special Criminal Court to possessing firearms in suspicious circumstances.

The weapons and more than 1,300 rounds of ammunition were found in a warehouse at Grants Drive, Greenogue Business Park, on January 24 last year.

Detective Inspector Noel Browne told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that gardai mounted a surveillance operation at the business park on January 23 after receiving information.

LOADED

He said Harding was seen going into an industrial unit with another man, while Walsh had arrived in a gold VW Passat.

Handguns an Uzi Sub Machine gun and ammunition were seized
Handguns an Uzi Sub Machine gun and ammunition were seized

Harding then left the unit with the second man, and was arrested a short distance away.

Gardai then raided the premises, on foot of an emergency Section 29 warrant, finding Walsh inside in the reception area.

Upstairs in a loft area, Insp Browne said gardai found a large quantity of ammunition, including nine revolvers, four pistols, a sub-machine gun, assault rifle and various ammunition magazines.

The guns were lying on cardboard and the ammunition was in boxes and in shopping bags.

Four of the guns were loaded and ready to fire and all of them were in “excellent working condition”, the inspector said.

Insp Browne said two newspapers and a plastic cup found in the unit were later forensically analysed and matched the DNA profile of Walsh, while Harding’s DNA was found on gloves there.

The court heard that Harding had two previous convictions, while Walsh had convictions for minor public order matters.

Defence counsel Sean Guerin SC, for Harding, said he had five children and four grandchildren, and his daughter was pregnant and expecting twins.

He put it to Insp Browne that Harding was “not a prime mover” in the overall operation, and the officer agreed.

He said Harding was “a willing participant, but would not have had the acumen to design such an operation”.

Mr Guerin said Harding had been in custody since January 2017, had enhanced prisoner status, was working in the prison bakery and was an on-call listener, to provide help and support to other inmates.

The defendant also wished to offer “a whole-hearted apology” to the court, Mr Guerin said.

A number of testimonials from friends and family were handed into court on Harding’s behalf, including one from his mother, who pleaded for leniency for her son, even though she said she knew what he had done was “very, very wrong”.

The court heard that no link between the weapons and any recorded crime had been found.

BOXER

Barrister Michael Bowman SC, for Walsh, put it to Insp Browne that his client was “following the directions of others”.

Insp Browne said Walsh was “a trusted lieutenant” in the operation.

Mr Bowman said Walsh, an electrician, had two children and was engaged to his longterm partner.

Walsh became involved in this operation because of drug money owed by him and his brother, he said.

A keen boxer, Walsh was described as a “wonderful person” and “devoted family man” in testimonials provided by his family to the court.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Ann Ryan and Judge Patricia Ryan, adjourned sentencing to January 30.

Both men face up to 14 years in prison.

Herald

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