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Gangster back to his old tricks in Costa haven

'GENTLEMAN' criminal John Cunningham is the latest Irish gangland figure to relocate to Spain.

The 57-year-old, who first came to prominence for his role in the kidnap of businessman's wife Jennifer Guinness in the 1980s, moved to the Costa del Sol earlier this year.

Gardai now believe that Cunningham, who has served time in the Netherlands and Ireland for drugs offences, is associating with younger Irish expat criminals.

Security sources confirmed that the Ballyfermot-born gangster is a target of the Garda National Drugs Unit, liaising with their Spanish counterparts.

He was released from prison here in February 2007 and returned to a home address in Tallaght. But sources say he has now relocated to Spain.

One source said: "The information is that Mr Cunningham is back to his old tricks, and has opted to base himself in Spain this time."

The criminal is known as 'Gentleman John' for his well- spoken manner, and lived a life of luxury in the Netherlands prior to his arrest there in March 2000.

He served four-and-a-half years of an eight-year prison term in the Netherlands for trafficking and possession of ecstasy, amphetamines and cannabis.

He was then transferred to Ireland, where he spent the remainder of the sentence at Limerick Prison.

Cunningham first came to public attention in the 1980s, when he was jailed for 17 years for his part in the 1986 abduction of Jennifer Guinness, wife of John Guinness, a director of Guinness and Mahon bank. While awaiting early release for that crime, Cunningham escaped from Shelton Abbey and fled to the Netherlands in late 1996. There he managed to build a drugs empire worth €50m.

A former associate of both Gilligan and Martin 'The General' Cahill, Cunningham developed a multi-million euro drugs empire.

After he was caught in 2000, Cunningham was convicted of trafficking over €10m worth of drugs between Holland and Ireland.



Luxury

At his Dutch trial, the public prosecutor noted: "This man looks like everybody's favourite neighbour, but don't be deceived by his friendly face and tidy appearance."

Investigators discovered how Cunningham had established a life of luxury in the Netherlands, renting a luxury home with its own swimming pool close to Amsterdam Airport, where he lived with his family.

clooney@herald.ie


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