Gardai hunt for Kinahan cartel henchman who has been on the run for eight years
Gardai are hunting for a 44-year-old criminal whose previous arrest led to an international police campaign against the Kinahan cartel.
Francis Delaney was one of four men arrested in a bust that led to the investigation known as Operation Shovel.
Delaney has been on the run for over eight years. He was given bail after he was charged with three other men in relation to a €10m cannabis bust in Kill, Co Kildare in February, 2008. This incident gave gardai key information about the workings of the Christy Kinahan international drugs syndicate.
In a bizarre twist, the last time Delaney was observed by gardai was when he bumped into senior officers from the Garda National Drugs Unit by chance in the Dutch capital of The Hague.
Coincidentally, these were two of the same officers who had played a major role in the 2008 drugs bust.
The suspect was in an Irish bar when the two detectives walked into it. They noticed Delaney was drinking with two other men.
When they recognised the gardai, the fugitive and his associates fled the pub and he has not been heard of since.
Sources say that it is suspected that Delaney has been given somewhere to stay by the Kinahan cartel in Spain's Costa Del Sol.
However, it can be revealed that the Donaghmede-based gang that Delaney worked for in 2008 were one of the cartel's biggest customers.
Delaney's last address in Ireland was at Melrose Park in Kinsealy and he was a very close associate of Sean Dunne, a well-known armed robber and drug dealer who disappeared in Spain in 2004. It is presumed he was murdered.
When busted by detectives, Delaney was allegedly caught with 500 kilos of cannabis.
He is now a key target of the Garda Extradition Unit, which are seeking information about his whereabouts.
Three of Delaney's co-accused have already received hefty jail sentences after the 2008 bust.
These include Ballymun man Eddie van Boxtel (42), a former Leeds United goalkeeper who once saved a penalty from Eric Cantona but is now serving seven-and-a-half years in jail.
Two other men who were previously sentenced for their role in the bust both pleaded guilty in 2008 and each received nine-year sentences.
They are Martin O'Connor (53), of North Great Charles Street, Dublin, and Vincent Percival (41), of Clongorey, Newbridge, Co Kildare.
The Garda investigation into the bust unravelled a number of shelf companies established by the Kinahan cartel to ostensibly export foodstuffs from Spain to Ireland, but whose shipments contained drugs.
The Garda inquiry concluded the companies were controlled by the Kinahan gang and that a similar modus operandi had been used by the gang to ship guns to London.
Gardai supplied the London Metropolitan Police with intelligence which led to the seizure of firearms there. By the end of 2008, Irish, English, Spanish and Dutch police had decided to implement an international police investigation codenamed Operation Shovel.
In May, 2010, 30 arrests were made as part of this investigation in Spain, Ireland and the UK. Among those detained were the cartel's head Christy Kinahan snr and his sons Christopher and Daniel as well as his right-hand man, John Cunningham.
However no-one has yet been charged with any offence in relation to the operation, despite the high profile raids and arrests.