Wednesday 22 November 2017

Garda revamp pays off with Kinahan bust

Top officer credits beefed-up specialist crime unit after four arrested over gang murder plot

KINGPIN: Daniel Kinahan who heads up the Kinahan cartel
KINGPIN: Daniel Kinahan who heads up the Kinahan cartel
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

A top garda has credited a revamped specialist crime unit, boosted by 185 extra officers, for a string of crackdowns on the Kinahan crime syndicate, culminating in the arrests last week of four gangland figures suspected of plotting a hit on a rival.

The arrests were hailed as a "game changer" by some Garda sources last week, who said most of the crime gang's operators in Dublin had been forced out of the country for months, significantly depleting the cartel's presence in the capital.

However, Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll indicated that the Kinahan syndicate was still supplying drugs into the country.

"I wouldn't be claiming success to the extent that crime gangs we are targeting at the moment are not conducting business. I wouldn't say that scenario has been arrived at yet," he said.

"All we would say is we believe we are very much heading in the right direction in causing the maximum possible impact on these crime gangs, in terms of their ability to plan and to continue business in the way they have done in the past."

Last Monday's operation was more than two months in the planning, and involved dozens of detectives. It was launched on foot of intelligence, which led to a decision to mount a lengthy surveillance operation.

The intelligence pointed to a potential hit on a man associated with the rival Hutch gang, allegedly organised by one of the Kinahan cartel's most senior figures in Ireland.

At 8pm last Monday, the Garda's Emergency Response Unit surrounded two men in a van in Marino, and recovered a loaded Beretta pistol, a silencer and ammunition in Fairview, north Dublin.

Simultaneously, armed gardai arrested a suspected hitman for the cartel elsewhere in Dublin. Separately a suspected senior Kinahan figure was arrested in the south inner city.

All four suspects are being held under anti-gangland legislation on suspicion of conspiracy to murder and can be held for seven days. Searches connected with the operation continued over the following days, with several homes and premises being raided.

Mr O'Driscoll said last week that the operation was "probably one of the most significant" of its type, and credited its success to a new restructured specialist crime unit, boosted by 185 additional gardai, and intelligence.

"We are targeting organised crime in a more comprehensive manner. We have restructured how we are organised and we now have what is called Special Crime Operations, which I am in charge of," Mr O'Driscoll said.

There are also "enhanced links" with policing organisations abroad, he added.

However, the big push has been in intelligence gathering, with increased resources adding to the Garda's capacity to avail of the bugging and surveillance measures contained in the Criminal Justice Act of 2009.

A report earlier this year recorded a spike in bugging operations in 2016, the year the feud between the Kinahan and Hutch gangs erupted in a gun attack at the Regency Hotel in Dublin in which a Kinahan associate, David Byrne, was murdered.

The number of surveillance operations more than doubled, and the authorisations for tracking devices jumped to 83 from just 12 the previous year.

It is believed that a number of those operations related to the crackdown on the Kinahan gang.

Gardai say they prevented over 40 threat-to-life incidents, with numerous "teams" of suspected criminals taken out of operation, which has further diminished the Kinahan cartel's capacity. The feud between the rival gangs has claimed 11 lives, including two innocent victims murdered in cases of mistaken identity.

The cartel is believed to scaled back its drugs operations here after a string of seizures and arrests sparked fears of a mole within its ranks. The gang is believed to have lost millions of euro in potential drugs earnings here, as a result of disruption to its activities and a string of cash and drug seizures.

The Criminal Assets Bureau is preparing actions to confiscate houses, jewellery and luxury cars belonging to suspected gang members. The Kinahan cartel remains ranked as one of the biggest in Europe.

Sunday Independent

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