A major player in the Kinahan cartel and two of his closest Dublin associates yesterday pleaded guilty to a series of serious drug and firearms offences at a court in England.
The trio face lengthy sentences at Ipswich Crown Court on October 26.
They were busted after a four-year investigation by the British National Crime Agency (NCA), which worked closely with the garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB), with the police agency paying tribute to gardai yesterday.
The NCA announced Dubliners Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh (52) and Gary Vickery (37,) both of Tamworth, and Daniel Canning (41), from Walkinstown, all admitted conspiring to import class A and B drugs and money laundering.
Canning also admitted possessing a firearm and ammunition.
Kavanagh is one of the most senior players in the Kinahan cartel and his conviction was welcomed by senior gardai who have been investigating him for decades.
He was given a three-year sentence at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court last year after a modified pink stun gun was found in his "highly fortified" mansion.
Because of the standard 50pc remission in the English prison system for so-called minor offences, Kavanagh would have expected to be a free man by next March.
However he is now facing years behind bars after pleading guilty to the organised crime charges. The Herald previously revealed Bomber's close associates Vickery and Canning had been using top-of-the-range encrypted phones as part of their drugs trafficking but "got sloppy", allowing law enforcement agencies to pounce.
"These individuals were operating a number of front companies in the UK similar to the companies dismantled in Ireland by the DOCB," a senior source said.
"Kavanagh is best described as a general within that organisation - one of the biggest in the world."
The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) has previously described Kavanagh as directing a wider organised crime network in Birmingham.
As well as operating in the British Midlands, gardai suspect Kavanagh also directed operations of the Kinahan cartel's Irish associates based in Liverpool.
In October 2017, the NCA dealt a major blow to Kavanagh's network when around €5.5m of drugs and more than £225,000 (€252,000) were seized in raids across the Midlands and Dover.
'Bomber' has rarely returned to Dublin since leaving almost 15 years ago after being targeted by the CAB.
However, he was spotted at the funeral of his brother-in-law David Byrne, who was shot dead in the Regency Hotel murder in February 2016. After his stun gun conviction, the English court heard Kavanagh had a lengthy criminal record in the UK and Ireland for offences including possession of a firearm, making threats to kill, assault, breach of the peace and fraud.
Last December he suffered a panic attack after being arrested in prison for questioning in relation to the investigation.
NCA deputy director of investigations Matt Horne yesterday welcomed the conviction of 'Bomber' and his pals.
"Today's guilty pleas are the culmination of a four-year investigation into Thomas Kavanagh and his co-conspirators, who were part of a significant international crime network, capable of organising multi-million pound shipments of drugs," Mr Horne said.
"We have worked with our colleagues at An Garda Siochana and I hope these convictions send out a strong message to others who may think themselves untouchable."