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How did gang thug Rice get to live high life in New York?

ONE of Ireland's most notorious gangland criminals has moved to New York – despite having convictions for armed robbery.

Feared Tallaght hood Paul Rice (43) – who gardai believe is a major drugs gang enforcer – is expected to spend several months in the US.

A source said: "Word is coming back that he is living the life of Reilly out in the States – but the big question is how the hell is he able to travel over there with the serious criminal convictions that he has."

Rice and his southside crew, which includes Gerard 'Hatchet' Kavanagh, previously told slain Real IRA gang boss Alan Ryan to "f*** off" when the RIRA came looking for protection money in 2011.

But he has also run into "serious bother" with the New IRA alliance, which has been trying to extort cash from him and even put him on top of a sinister death list earlier this year.

A source said: "There will be a lot less heat on Rice in New York – that's for sure. He won't need to worry about the IRA out there."

Rice had been enlisted by Ireland's richest international drugs syndicate to try to recoup hundreds of thousands of euro that is owed to them.

Christy Kinahan's organisation had turned to Rice to get funds owed to them and he has embarked on a campaign of intimidation.

However, there is now underworld speculation that Rice is no longer working with the Kinahan mob. This could change the entire dynamic of drugs gang activity in the capital, according to sources.

Meanwhile, mystery surrounds how Rice could enter the US with a serious criminal record. Rice's most serious conviction was when he was jailed for 10 years in July 1995 after he pleaded guilty to the armed robbery of a bank in which shots were fired.