Sunday 16 June 2019

Man who 'used Irish backpackers to smuggle cocaine into New Zealand and Australia' has €50k fortune seized, court hears

Brian O'Reilly, Fran Fennell and Eamon 'The Don' Dunne
Brian O'Reilly, Fran Fennell and Eamon 'The Don' Dunne
Fran Fennell's €50,000 fortune was seized by police in New Zealand

Nicola Tallant

POLICE in New Zealand have frozen the bank account of a Dublin man with links to the Kinahan cartel.

A court heard allegations that Fran Fennell had used a network of Irish backpackers to smuggle cocaine.

Socialite Fennell, who gardai suspect operated as a cocaine dealer to the stars in Dublin, was named in New Zealand’s High Court this month as the organiser of a global drugs ring.

The court heard that he arranged for Irish mules to “bodypack” 300 or 400 grammes of cocaine and fly into New Zealand and Australia.

Fran Fennell's €50,000 fortune was seized by police in New Zealand
Fran Fennell's €50,000 fortune was seized by police in New Zealand

A gram of cocaine costs $360, the equivalent of €205 in New Zealand – the highest price in the world, according to a 2018 global survey.

Fennell, who is originally from Ballymun, is also under investigation at home for money laundering and drug offences.

Asset Recovery Unit boss, Detective Senior Sergeant Stu McGowan, told the New Zealand Herald that police were tipped off about Fennell by Customs.

“He flew out here for less than a week, opened the bank account and then disappeared,” he said.

“Our belief was that Irish backpackers were bringing out cocaine for him, body-packing 300 or 400 grammes at a time. It would get dropped off to an associate Fennell had on the ground running things who would deposit cash into his bank account.”

Fennell was relieved of €50,000 of his alleged drug fortune by New Zealand authorities after the court ruled he used human couriers to supply coke and ecstasy to Kiwis and Australians.

A proceeds of crime case heard almost Aus$250,000 (€155,000) was shifted by Fennell using banks, Western Union and couriers over a six month period in 2014.

A massive $72,000 (circa €50,000) was in a bank account in his name when authorities froze the assets following a tip-off from gardai.


The money was forfeited last week when Justice Gerald Nation said he was satisfied Fennell had benefited from “significant criminal activity” and that police had proved he controlled the smuggling ring.

Gardai believe Fennell ran a network of human couriers and transported millions in cocaine from Ireland to Australia, using models, executives and even a fireman, who carried the drugs internally across the globe before handing them over to Fennell’s Australian associates.

Officers in the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau arrested Fennell and another 20 people who were believed to be part of his network over the past year.

They are completing a file for the DPP at the moment and it is hoped he will be charged in relation to laundering an estimated €1m in the global racket.

New Zealand police seized the bank account which had been used to transfer just some of the money Fennell allegedly made from his drug dealing enterprise, which used the Kinahan cartel’s product.

The High Court there gave orders against the account of Francis Gary Fennell which formed part of a two-year inquiry into his operation.

Fennell travelled the world spending his money.

“He racked up $230,000 in a short space of time in New Zealand, doing the same thing in Australia too,” according to McGowan.

“He used those funds to live the high life.”

The New Zealand account was frozen in February 2016 at the beginning of a two-year investigation led by gardai..


“He was on their radar. They were quite keen on the evidence we had on the money laundering side of things.

“We worked with the Australian authorities too, as Fennell had people on the ground there,” said McGowan.

Fennell is a regular on the Dublin social scene, where he mixes in pubs and clubs around Grafton Street.

Yet last January he was arrested and quizzed about his role in the human courier network.

Fennell was in a penthouse apartment at Premier Square in Finglas when he was busted by officers.

But it is believed that he moved between a number of luxury properties in the city while he was living here.

He enjoyed luxurious sun holidays to Australia, Dubai, Cuba, Holland, the Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Ibiza and even Colombia during his travels, which were funded by the profits of his lucrative venture, which was backed by the Kinahan cartel.

With cocaine in Australia and New Zealand fetching a higher price than in Europe and is a growing market for Human couriers used in the Ireland to Australia and New Zealand smuggling network were believed to have been paid with a holiday Down Under, a few thousand euro or with cocaine.

In September 2014, Dubliner Ian O’Heaire took ill on a flight from Dubai to Australia and was treated on the runway of Perth International Airport by medics who discovered his abdomen was filled with 27 balloons of cocaine.

His cargo was valued at €20,000 and he wound up During 2016, the arrests of a number of Irish people who were suspected of drug dealing, coupled with the movement of large amounts of money through accounts, raised suspicions further. All claimed to be on backpacking holidays.

Fennell was friends with murdered crime lord Eamon ‘The Don’ Dunne and his business partner Brian O’Reilly.


Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News