Saturday 20 October 2018

Gang sought arsenal to kill State witness

Garda concern as military weapons, including grenade launchers, targeted by feuding factions in Limerick war

Ralph Riegel and Barry Duggan

A SHIPMENT of military weaponry was intended by a Limerick gang to attempt to kill a witness in protective State custody -- and to wipe out the leadership of a rival gang in a final vicious settling of the city's blood feud.

The Sunday Independent has learned that gardai are now liaising with Defence Force military intelligence and European police forces amid fears Limerick gangs may again attempt to obtain lethal East European military hardware.

Senior gardai are deeply concerned at the Limerick gangland crisis -- particularly given the fact that three senior members of the feuding McCarthy-Dundon and Keane-Collopy gangs are due for release from lengthy prison sentences over the next 12 months.

Such is the fear of further lethal attacks in the notorious feud, leading members of the McCarthy-Dundon gang have purchased custom-fitted bullet-proof cars with reinforced glass over an inch thick. Bullet-proof vests have been part of the daily dress codes of both sides for a number of years.

Former Soviet Block weaponry remains readily available in parts of Eastern Europe -- though, with European security forces on high-alert over the threat posed by Islamic terrorists, getting such weapons in the UK and Ireland remains problematic.

Detectives suspect that one gang's determination to obtain Russian-made Kalashnikov RPG-7 grenade launchers was to gain a dramatic firepower advantage over their gang enemies -- and it would also facilitate a series of spectacular, targeted assassinations, the most disturbing of which surrounds a key witness who is currently in protective State custody.

The gang were apparently determined to kill the man -- for fear of what assistance he could offer gardai.

Detectives suspect that central to this threat was the acquisition of a Kalashnikov RPG-7.

The RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher was designed by the Red Army in the 1960s to dramatically improve the firepower available to infantry soldiers. It is capable of hitting targets at distances of up to 500 metres. The RPG-7 is normally used with a 2.6kg warhead and reached the IRA's arsenal via Libya shipments where it remained in devastating use for 20 years.

The RPG warhead can penetrate up to 30cm of lightly armoured targets and if used against civilian vehicles like unprotected Army or police cars, can inflict horrific damage.

Last week, two men were handed prison sentences totalling 18 years after pleading guilty to conspiring to possess weapons for an unlawful purpose.

Glen Geasley, 27, and Sean Callinan, 21, were jailed after Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that both were effectively pawns in an operation co-ordinated from within Wheatfield Prison by members of the Dundon/McCarthy gang.

The garda "sting" operation resulted in the deployment of two undercover agents from the United Kingdom Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). The agents posed as arms dealers and met Geasley at an isolated London warehouse where the Irishman was shown photos of weapons on a laptop computer and then given a price list.

During the operation, one of the agents/arms dealers was told by Geasley: "(They) needed all the weapons for a war in Limerick between Wayne (Dundon's) people and their enemies."

Wayne Dundon had been described to the agents/arms dealers as "the decision man". Incredibly, it was also arranged for one of the agents/arms dealers to visit an inmate at Wheatfield Prison so he could be vetted by members of the Dundon gang in a nearby visitors cubicle.

A newspaper containing code contacts was handed over and during the subsequent arms delivery operation two weeks later, Desmond Dundon rang from inside prison via a mobile phone to demand two sample weapons before the cash was to be handed over. This was for the purpose of test firing -- and to ensure the Limerick gang were not victims of a "switch".

However, the agent insisted that this was impossible and demanded payment upfront of the full St£45,000 (€59,000) for the entire shipment. The cash was delivered in used British and Northern Ireland bank notes in a Tommy Hilfiger sports bag to Cork's Rochestown Park hotel. Geasley and Callinan were arrested the same evening in a garda operation supported by the elite Emergency Response Unit (ERU).

A subsequent search of the Dundons' cells in Wheatfield revealed the hidden mobile phones -- and the newspaper with the secret contact details.

Detective Chief Supt Tony Quilter, who masterminded the elaborate garda "sting", stressed that Geasley was acting totally under the direction and influence of others, while Callinan, who has a drugs problem, had simply "got in over his head". But Geasley and Callinan were warned by Judge Patrick Moran that the consequences of such arms reaching their intended target would have been "very serious for the people of this country".

Geasley and Callinan were jailed after dramatically changing their pleas on the 11th day of their trial. Geasley was jailed for 12 years, with five years suspended, while Callinan was jailed for six years with three years suspended. The sentence suspensions were, Judge Moran explained, a recognition of the guilty pleas which had saved the Court and State substantial time and effort by concluding a trial which had been expected to last for at least another month.

Both Callinan, of 11 Pearse Park, Tullamore, Co Offaly, and Geasley, of 10 Innismore Drive, Ballincollig, Cork, pleaded guilty to a sole charge of conspiracy to possess firearms, on a date between February 22 and April 20, 2007, for an unlawful purpose contrary to common law.

The firearms cache was made up from seized weapons held in the garda arsenal.

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