Monday 11 December 2017

Kinahan gang 'stood down' on home turf as Garda hits lead to mole hunt

Seizures and CAB raids have taken their toll on drug traffickers at war with the Hutch mob, reports Maeve Sheehan

BUST: This drugs raid netted a €37m haul. Photo: Stephen Collins
BUST: This drugs raid netted a €37m haul. Photo: Stephen Collins
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Christy Kinahan's crime cartel has pulled his so-called head of logistics out of Ireland and scaled back its drugs operations here after a string of seizures and arrests sparked fears of a mole within its ranks.

Kinahan has lost millions of euro in potential drugs earnings here, either as a result of cash seizures by gardai or in intercepted drugs shipments, according to a security source.

Money-laundering operations have been shut down, European arrest warrants have been issued against fugitive gang members and the Criminal Assets Bureau is on the trail of the money.

"The Kinahan gang is under ferocious pressure," said the source.

"The reason is they have lost shipments of drugs and money and their business in this country has been seriously disrupted. They feel there is a tout in the camp, and the main objective is to root it out. The gang is effectively stood down in Ireland."

At least 22 gangland hits have been foiled since the Kinahan-Hutch feud erupted on the streets of Dublin in February last year, with the shooting at the Regency Hotel. Most of the averted gun attacks were orchestrated on the Kinahan side, against relatives and associates of one-time inner-city criminal Gerry Hutch, giving the impression that the Hutch gang was under siege, and the Kinahan mob was untouchable.

The Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau has seized more cash, guns and ammunition in the first seven months of this year than it did in all of last year. And most of that belonged to the Kinahan gang - €1.3m in cash, 24 firearms and 1,800 rounds of ammunition.

But the figures barely dent the Kinahan cartel's international operations as investigators now rank him as one of the biggest drug traffickers in Europe, with direct links to South American and Far Eastern suppliers.

While Kinahan has plenty of international drugs routes to mine, the disruption of his trafficking into Ireland still appears to have rattled middle managers and foot soldiers who are feeling the heat. 

Read More: Gangster asleep as police storm room

Kinahan, who has left his Spanish bolthole for the Middle East, is said by security sources to have passed the baton to his sons.

Daniel Kinahan is now said to be running the show from his base on the Costa del Sol, but, with his name top of a list of targets in the feud that has resulted in 12 deaths, he no longer visits Ireland and many of his 'crew' of hands-on south inner-city lieutenants in Dublin have fled the city too.

At least half a dozen people who have been organising the Kinahan cartel's drugs operations in Ireland have left for Spain and the UK.

They include the key decision-maker overseeing the logistics of drug shipments, collection of payments and enforcement, who, according to a security source, has been "pulled out" to Dubai.

Several of the gang's key players have been arrested and some are facing charges.

The decimation of the cartel has coincided with an increasingly productive line of investigation which, according to sources, has led to paranoia within the ranks. The most recent strike against the organisation was the arrest in Spain last week of a trusted associate of Kinahan who has been on the run for seven years.

He was arrested south of Barcelona in an early-morning raid by armed police last Thursday, following a tip-off from An Garda Siochana.

Days before this man's arrest, gardai foiled what they believed was an attempted hit.

Since the start of the year, gardai have intercepted a 1.8- tonne shipment of cannabis in Dublin Port with a potential street value of €37m.

They recovered €300,000 from a 'counting centre' for the Kinahan cartel that operated out of a south Dublin apartment block, and guns and silencers from a lock-up in Tallaght.

Among those feeling the heat is the brother of David Byrne, the top Kinahan henchman who was murdered during the infamous Regency Hotel gun attack last year. Liam Byrne is now Kinahan's top man in Ireland, which means he is also a top target for the Hutch side of the gang warfare.

A round-the-clock armed Garda presence is still maintained outside not only his house, but the homes of most of those associated with or related to him. According to local sources in Byrne's Crumlin heartland, he's not been seen around for a while.

After his brother's murder, as the gangland assassinations escalated, the Criminal Assets Bureau turned up in force on the doorstep of Liam's Byrne's house in Crumlin. CAB officers discovered a palatial home behind the corporation veneer, of sunken floors, hot tubs and a personalised collection of boxing gloves, including a pair signed by Muhammad Ali.

He was not the only target - the homes of several other associates suspected of links to the criminal cartel were hit in the same dawn swoop, along with garages, lock-ups and offices.

Just four months ago, the CAB revealed the fruits of the raids in the High Court, where they sought permission to sell cars, motorbikes, jewellery and other valuables, amounting to more than €500,000 worth of assets and bling.

The haul would have been worth more but the cars had depreciated in value by €111,000, the court heard. They included eight BMWs, seven Volkswagen Golfs, Audis, Mercedes Benz and a Lexus Hybrid. The vehicles were used by the Kinahan gang as "currency" for services and for laundering money.

The car dealership to which the vehicles were linked was a "bogus front".

Among the other valuables recovered were watches that cost thousands, including a Breitling and Rolex, designer shoes and a betting slip for €38,500 and large sums of cash, not to mention that many and frequent international flights were to locations as far flung as Dubai.

CAB's attempts to sell off this bounty were initially resisted by Liam Byrne, but the High Court eventually approved the sale.

But with a bounty of his own on his head, and a floundering drugs business in Ireland, Liam Byrne has bigger things to worry about.

Sunday Independent

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