Garda still trying to find answers as complex drugs feud rages on
The ban in 2006 on direct relations between detectives and sources has put us back a decade, writes Jim Cusack
Christy Kinahan and his mob are beginning to feel the "clawback" effect from basic police work stemming from investigations into his gang's 12 months of bloodletting after the Regency Hotel attack.
Inquiries into one of the 13 murders carried out by the Kinahan mob are believed to have led to the previously unknown figure at the centre of one of the gang's oldest and most important distribution and logistics operations in Dublin. It is under the direct control of a man who has evaded arrest despite being the key suspect in more than two dozen murders in west Dublin and its rural hinterland.
The Kinahan gang in Dublin and its associates have spared nothing in their lust for revenge over the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel a year ago next Sunday. One senior source told the Sunday Independent: "If the Hutches offer a hundred grand for a hit, the Kinahans double it. Money talks."
This has resulted in the "feud" tally of 12 murders by the Kinahans to one by the Hutch side. They may have beaten the Hutches into submission, but they are paying a price higher than the huge lumps of cash they are prepared to put up for assassinations.
Gardai will never admit it but someone in the Kinahan operation is talking. This happens in the legally nebulous area where guards catch someone and, facing charges, the caught person or a close relative or friend begin giving up information. Informing on the Kinahans is possibly one of the most dangerous things to do in Dublin.
But, it happens. Some people give gardai information for no reward, simply wishing to strike a blow at a mob which includes some of the most depraved sociopaths in society.
As the murder tally progressed through last year, so did the flow of information to the Garda.
One significant factor in the progress of the garda investigation in west Dublin was that gardai - though this won't be admitted - are reverting to old and proven methods of detective work.
The essence of detective work involves the trusted relationship between police officers and their information sources.
This was severely undermined 10 years ago when garda management, in response to the Judge Frederick Morris report into corruption in Donegal, stopped one-to-one relations between detectives and their sources.
In 2006, all detectives were informed that all their criminal sources had to be handed over to central CHIS (covert human intelligence sources) officers who had no personal relationship with these informants. Criminal intelligence effectively broke down as a result.
Not only did this allow the mobs to grow in strength, it also emboldened them to carry out murder almost at will. The onslaught against the Hutches in the first two months after the Regency demonstrated this.
Senior sources now admit the whole CHIS idea was a massive mistake. Legal sources say Judge Morris did not intend that the vital personal relationships between detectives and their sources be done away with but that garda management somehow made this decision based on a flawed interpretation of his recommendations.
The CHIS teams, based in stations away from the tight-knit communities where the crime organisations are based, were unable to accurately assess the "intelligence" they were receiving.
Under the new cumbersome apparatus, CHIS officers, many with no criminal investigative experience, would collect pieces of intelligence and feed these upwards to the crime and security section in Garda Headquarters, which would then, as it suited, disburse reports back down to local stations - where much of this intelligence was found to be wrong, out of date or superfluous.
That changed in the past year in response to the massive negative publicity stemming from the Regency attack and its consequent massacre of the Hutch gang and anyone, innocent or otherwise, associated with it. Good ordinary uniformed gardai and detectives are again sourcing information locally and ensuring it is put to good effect, according to usually reliable sources.
To protect these sources and the gardai who are receiving the information, the force has set up an umbrella anti-organised crime unit, the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB).
This is claiming responsibility for almost all major arms, drugs and cash seizures, though clearly its limited numbers of officers are not capable of the round-the-clock activity that would be required to carry out all these operations.
The Garda Special Detective Unit, which never adopted the CHIS regulation, has played a very significant though unpublicised role in the operations against both sides.
Its interests in terrorist and subversive criminal activity have intersected with "ordinary crime" investigations as both the Hutches and Kinahans are linked to republican - and even loyalist - paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.
One man linked to the Kinahans was previously linked with John Gilligan and the Irish National Liberation Army.
This man still has affiliations with his old "republican" associates who have become key distributors for Kinahan-supplied drugs north of the Border.
The Rathcoole-based gangster, responsible for upwards of two dozen murders over the past two decades, has largely replicated Gilligan's operation.
His predecessor in the Gilligan gang was Russell Warren, the failed businessman who acted as accountant and bagman for Gilligan's money-laundering operations.
Warren agreed to testify against his old boss in return for a reduced sentence and a new life abroad under the witness protection scheme.
The witness scheme, possibly the best single method of obtaining usable evidence in court against organised criminals, has fallen into disuse over the past decade alongside the degrading of the Garda's criminal intelligence-gathering operations.
Intelligence was clearly a factor leading to the discovery of cannabis in Dublin Port the previous week.
This €37m seizure, one of the biggest hauls of cannabis in many years, however, pales in relation to the industrial-scale importation and distribution of drugs needed for the Irish market.
Last October's discovery of a torpedo-type container washed up on Kilmacreehy beach, near Liscannor, Co Clare, was the biggest pointer to date of how the Kinahan mob uses Ireland's unprotected west coast as a major landing stage for cocaine and heroin.
The sealed metal container, bolted to the hull of a seagoing vessel under its waterline, was dropped off the coast and was to have been collected by a trawler or small inshore vessel and then transported across the country to Dublin, and maybe even to the UK market.
It contained 75kg of pure cocaine. Although a value of only €5m was placed on the contents by Customs, garda sources said that once cut with adulterants and sold on the open market, the drugs could have had a street value of €50m or more as most cocaine sold in Ireland is 15pc or less in actual cocaine purity levels.
Much of the adulterants used are dangerous and known generically in the drugs trade where the cocaine is mixed as "dirt".
The actual core of the Kinahan operation is entirely offshore and Ireland is now just a small part of this crime empire, which operates with global reach from the Far East to Africa and Central and South America.
It is diversified and increasingly involved in legitimate trading, following the example set by the much, much bigger Italian and Corsican mafias, who are now conglomerates involved in shipping and international trade. Like many other aspects of trade and industry, the illicit drugs trade has globalised.
One seasoned garda said seizures and arrests can have a cumulative effect but there is no indication that the Kinahans have been put out of business, or that the killing and mass intimidation that surrounds the organised drugs trade has been stopped.
In fact, the likelihood is that the mob will respond as it usually does to garda seizures and disruption of its trade, by seeking out and murdering anyone it regards as a "rat".
Large personal debts have also been incurred as a direct result of seizures and this also stokes the internal pressures that result in small and medium dealers in debt to the main distributors paying the price for garda successes in blood.