Friday 22 November 2019

'Dublin Jimmy' death: A police raid, a dead thug and a surprise offer

The death of Cyril McGuinness could lead gardai to paymaster behind Quinn company attacks, writes Maeve Sheehan

Criminal: Cyril McGuinness was the main suspect in the kidnap and torture of Kevin Lunney. Photo: Collins
Criminal: Cyril McGuinness was the main suspect in the kidnap and torture of Kevin Lunney. Photo: Collins
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

For a thug who silenced an entire community, Cyril McGuinness came to an ignominious end. Secreted in a bolthole in Derbyshire to escape the police heat from organising the particularly vicious abduction and kidnap of Kevin Lunney, he clearly believed he had covered his tracks.

His laptop and various documents he'd brought with him into hiding were casually on display. He stood there in his underpants, his face white with shock, police later reported back to their Garda counterparts. Police fanned past him to search the house. He urinated on himself, soiling his underwear, and then collapsed to the floor. Although trained in emergency situations, police were unable to help him. A lifelong smoker and overweight, he died of a suspected cardiac arrest aged 54.

Police have retrieved a "treasure trove" of information from McGuinness's hideaway, in his laptop, mobile phones and records. According to informed sources, "important" emails have been recovered from his laptop. There is a sense that the net is closing.

In the village of Ballyconnell and surrounding townlands on either side of the Northern Ireland Border, relief was palpable. The directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) and their families had probably the best night's sleep since their chief operating officer and friend, Mr Lunney, was abducted in September. Bundled from his car on his way home from the office, he was driven to Cavan, tortured and beaten in a horsebox, and left for dead on a country road.

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The attack was so vicious that it finally forced the kind of police response that the directors of QIH have long called for.

McGuinness has been the prime suspect for years for organising the criminal damage arson attacks on the companies once owned by the local fallen tycoon, Sean Quinn, providing the brute force to buttress a campaign also waged online and in illegal signs and posters.

Victim: Businessman Kevin Lunney has spoken out after being abducted from near his home and tortured. Photo: PA
Victim: Businessman Kevin Lunney has spoken out after being abducted from near his home and tortured. Photo: PA

Garda intelligence says he was paid €20,000 for a standard act in a repertoire that has included burning company property, torching cars in driveways, and bullets in the post - but none as bad as the savage torture of Mr Lunney, a father of six young children.

The campaign of intimidation is squarely directed at restoring Sean Quinn to the businesses he founded by scaring off the American investors in the business and running its directors out of town.

Sean Quinn has repeatedly condemned the attacks, insisting they are not in his name. He has said his family is being wrongly blamed for the "barbaric" attack on Kevin Lunney. He indicated that he has abandoned his long-held ambitions of returning to his businesses because of Mr Lunney's abduction.

Why should Cyril McGuinness, a lifelong smuggler and career criminal, have given two hoots about restoring a bankrupt former billionaire to the global empire he lost in 2011 after his €2bn gamble on Anglo Irish Bank shares failed spectacularly?

He probably didn't. McGuinness, aka Dublin Jimmy, worked for money, according to Garda sources. Raised in a large family in north Dublin, he worked in scrap and haulage since his teens, was in trouble by his 20s and amassed 50 convictions by the time he died. He presumably moved to the Border to make full use of its smuggling opportunities.

McGuinness was a fixer. At the height of the Troubles in the 1980s, he was suspected of shifting stolen vehicles across the Border, and provided some logistical cover to the IRA. He was allegedly involved in helping the IRA plant a bomb in Bishopsgate, London in 1993. He smuggled cigarettes, and alcohol and was involved in diesel laundering. Another lucrative racket was fly tipping - dumping waste to illegal sites north of the Border - for which he received a suspended sentence.

Kevin Lunney. Picture: BBC/PA
Kevin Lunney. Picture: BBC/PA

He served surprisingly little jail time. In 2002, gardai raided a breaker's yard in Rooskey where he was suspected of dismantling stolen vehicles. Five years passed before he was arrested in Ballyconnell. In a file to the Director of Public Prosecution in 2008, gardai wrote that he was suspected of involvement in large scale criminality but acknowledged that they didn't have the evidence to charge him. McGuinness was eventually extradited from Ireland to Belgium in 2011 to serve a seven-year sentence for theft.

He was back on Teemore Road in Derrylin, just a couple of miles over the Border from Ballyconnell, in 2013 - a heavy for hire.

To the victims of his crimes in the area, McGuinness seemed "untouchable". It is no exaggeration to say McGuinness has terrorised the community. In addition to directing terror at QIH, he was the prime suspect for torching a car owned by a garda in the driveway of his home. A second garda who crossed him had his vintage tractors torched. Neither crime was ever solved.

"You would never see him walking the roads much, but he would drink regularly in a couple of local pubs in Ballyconnell," said one local man. He flouted the smoking ban to light up in pubs, and on one occasion, was seen by a local, sitting on a parked patrol car, tipping his cigarette ash on the bonnet.

According to local sources, he was rumoured to be an MI5 tout and rumours persisted that he was also a Garda informant. Senior Garda sources insisted that his recidivist criminal activity would have ruled him out of their informant programme, CHIS, which since 2010 operates under the oversight of a retired judge.

The complacency around this funded campaign orchestrated by Dublin Jimmy was such that a death threat issued last May against the five directors of the Quinn companies seemed to have been pretty much ignored.  

A second death threat against the directors, issued two weeks ago has been a further wake-up call, revealing the "paymaster's" dogged and ruthlessly opportunistic determination to exploit the fear generated by Kevin Lunney's abduction. But the impact of Kevin Lunney's first harrowing interview, given to Jim Fitzpatrick, of BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme, has proved another watershed. His understated delivery served only to underline the chilling horror of his ordeal. It was broadcast last Tuesday on the day of a meeting between the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris and the Chief Superintendent, John O'Reilly.

The following day, Wednesday at 5pm, an email pinged into the inbox of Liam McCaffrey, the chief executive of QIH. It was from Sean Quinn's son, Sean Junior - who along with his father had been brought back into the company on a €100,000 consultancy contract before they were both let go in 2016. Sean Junior had attacked the directors as "pariahs" last year. 

"Hi Liam,

"I hope you are doing well after what must have been a very difficult time for all of you but particularly Kevin and his family.

"As you likely saw in Jim Fitzpatrick's piece last night, representatives of the family are more than prepared to attend a meeting with you or with representatives of Quinn Industrial Holdings with a view to exploring if there is some way the parties could work together to try and bring calm to the area. This email is to formally make that offer directly to you in good faith.

Regards,

Sean"

Liam McCaffrey and his colleagues considered the email. The death threat they had received two weeks earlier was fresh in their minds. Its list of issues included the directors' failure to reply to Sean Quinn when he had tried to contact them.

He replied. He was "surprised" given Sean Junior's comments at the "inflammatory meeting" and his references to the directors as "pariahs", "at a time when members of the management team of QIH were the subject of a series of arson attacks and calm was required".

"We are deeply concerned at continuing attempts to position this is a community issue. This peace-loving community is united in support of Kevin and played no part in his abduction."

He declined his offer to meet and urged Sean Junior to go to the police "as a matter of urgency" if he had any information related to the intimidation. "We hope that there will be an atmosphere now that people will feel more comfortable to speak freely ," said John McCartin, one of five directors. "I would hope that the resolve remains to finish this investigation out and to get to the paymaster."

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