Illegal empire filled IRA coffers
Thomas 'Slab' Murphy has been the de-facto godfather of south Armagh for over three decades.
Nothing moves in this lawless Republican enclave without the knowledge of the Provo's former chief of staff.
From his property straddling the Border with Co Louth, Murphy has presided over a huge oil laundering and smuggling empire that has earned hundreds of millions through the years and filled the coffers of the IRA.
The core of this vast operation is fuel laundering – a process that removes dye from diesel oil, to evade VAT payments.
Scores of oil laundering plants are hidden in farm yards across the area, creating an industry worth a staggering €100m in the past 18 months alone, according to security sources.
In 2006, it prompted Justice Minister Michael McDowell to describe the south Armagh oil country as a Republican "state within a state".
Around the same time, Slab Murphy's empire was targeted in the first of a number of major cross-Border operations, including Operation Loft last week, which were designed to smash his smuggling racket.
However, experience has shown that the customs or police cannot maintain a permanent presence in the area. And as soon as the state forces retreat, it is business as usual.
The fact that Murphy and his group appeared to have been tipped off at least four hours before the raids last Wednesday morning is disturbing – and a major headache for the state authorities on both sides of the Border.
With so much money and influence, it does not stretch the imagination to think that Slab has at least one well- placed mole lurking somewhere in the state system.