Saturday 20 April 2019

Phone shows gang leader sharing cell with budgie

MAEVE SHEEHAN

A MOBILE phone, seized from a jailed gang leader who is serving 10 years in Portlaoise for drugs and firearms offences, provided a glimpse of just what goes on inside the prison.

The phone was seized last September on the instructions of gardai who believed that the man was running his operation from his prison cell.

The images stored on the camera phone show that the prisoner spent his evenings alone in his cell with a budgie he called 'Shrek' and danced alone to rave music. The images - a collection of video clips and photos - also included pornographic clips and images of intimate body parts.

In one video clip, he can be heard whistling and calling his budgie. Another image captures the budgie perched on his chin, with its head inside the prisoner's mouth.

Another clip seems to show prisoners having a party. The camera is trained on one prisoner who is smoking and drinking, but boisterous jeers and shouting in the background suggests that there are many others cramped into the tiny cell. In another, he is bouncing around in the dark to the sound of rave music.

There is also an image of a crime scene in Crumlin, which was texted to the man's phone. The image shows Gardai cleaning up blood at the scene of a shooting on a suburban street.

His associates were linked to the notorious feud in Crumlin, which resulted in numerous gangland shootings in recent years. His brother was the second person killed in the feud in 2002.

The Garda investigation into alleged corruption in the prison service is expected to escalate, after at least one prison officer admitted to smuggling in drugs and mobile phones to jailed criminals in return for cash.

The breakthrough in the inquiry comes as prison chiefs ordered a crackdown on smuggled goods in Ireland's most notorious jail.

An intensive sweep of cells at Portlaoise high-security prison last week unearthed mobile phones, alcohol, drugs, at least three flat-screen televisions (one of which was owned by drug trafficker John Gilligan), and three budgies.

A separate criminal investigation into contraband goods smuggled into Mountjoy, Wheatfield and Cloverhill prisons in Dublin has been underway since March. That inquiry resulted in the arrests of three prison officers. It is understood that at least one of the prison officers has admitted involvement in smuggling drugs and mobile phone SIM cards to prisoners. In return, the officer received what are understood to be relatively small cash inducements.

A senior garda source said inquiries headed by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations, will be intensifying in the coming weeks and there may be more arrests. The three prison officers have been suspended.

The prison authorities have reports that smuggling in prisons is widespread. But the extent of the problem was exposed a fortnight ago, when a convicted armed robber, John Daly, telephoned Joe Duffy's Liveline radio show from a mobile phone which had been smuggled into his prison cell.

The security lapse - revealed to a national audience live on air - provoked huge embarrassment throughout the prison service.

While the prison officers blamed violent prisoners and lenient governors in the aftermath of the searches, Michael McDowell has accused a minority of prison officers of trafficking into jails.

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