'DAPPER Don' Christy Kinahan was celebrating last night after being told he will not face trial in Spain on drugs and arms trafficking charges.
The reputed underworld boss feared he would be prosecuted for the crimes after a high-profile police raid on his Costa del Sol home in May 2010.
But a judge investigating the Dublin man and a gang of alleged accomplices including his two sons has decided to drop the allegations.
Kinahan, who was hauled back to a court in Estepona yesterday for further questioning, is now being probed only on suspicion of money laundering and membership of a criminal gang.
The dramatic decision, which a state prosecutor decided not to appeal against, will be seen as a major blow for the Spanish police and politicians.
Nearly a dozen suspects were arrested in the UK and Ireland as part of the same Europol-coordinated police operation over four years ago.
Investigating judge Maria Carmen Gutierrez Henares is understood to have binned her drugs and weapons trafficking probe after finding no evidence linking Kinahan and his alleged accomplices to the crimes.
Christy and his sons and alleged right-hand man John Cunningham will remain on bail, along with the other suspects, while the secret court probe continues into the money laundering and criminal gang membership allegations.
Sources close to the long-running case predicted it could take at least two more years to reach trial - and the number of defendants would be a fraction of those originally arrested.
One insider said: "All the suspects, including Christy Kinahan, have been called back to court over the last three weeks to give evidence behind closed doors.
"Most said they had nothing to add to earlier statements.
"Christy KInahan attended court yesterday but managed to get in and out of the building without anyone cottoning on to the fact it was him."
Another well-placed source added: "The suspects weren't asked a single question about drugs or weapons.
"The judge took her decision around the same time she called the first of the suspects in for further questioning.
"Their defence lawyers are confident the money laundering charges are not going to prosper either."
"He's not surprised the drugs and weapons allegations against him have been dropped, but he's obviously very relieved."
More than 20 people, including the Kinahans were arrested on the Costa del Sol as part of Operation Shovel.
Christy, arrested at his luxury apartment in a private development near Estepona, spent six months on remand in jail before being bailed.
Armed officers sealed off a residential street after his detention before marching him into court.
Police originally said the gang he is said to have led owned property worth €500m in Brazil and €160m in Spain. The suspects had a fleet of expensive cars seized and bank accounts frozen.