When Gary Hutch fled Dublin for the Costa del Sol in the aftermath of the Derek Duffy murder in 2007, he immediately hooked up with his childhood pal Paddy Doyle, from Dublin's north inner-city.
Doyle, who was on the run after becoming the chief suspect for three gangland murders here in 2005, was being "put up" by the Christy Kinahan cartel in southern Spain.
Hutch, who was now 26, knew some cartel members from his younger days, in- cluding Kinahan's son Daniel and notorious hood 'Fat' Freddie Thompson, who he would become particularly close to.
Hutch almost immediately became involved in the cartel's drug-dealing, and his close childhood connections to a number of north inner-city drug dealers made him a useful addition to the ever-growing organised crime gang.
In Spain, Hutch, Thompson and Doyle were mixing and socialising with some of the most serious players in international crime - traffickers from Turkey, Russia and the Balkans.
The young Dubliners were now playing in the A League because of their association with the cartel - but clouds were gathering.
While Hutch enjoyed his new life in the sun, Doyle and Thompson were increasingly getting caught up in gangland entanglements, with Thompson's focus being on the Crumlin/Drimnagh feud back home and Doyle getting into a number of disputes with foreign gangsters in Spain.
It was because of Doyle's reckless behaviour on the so-called Costa del Crime that a decision was taken to have him murdered.
It is still not known whether it was Russian gangsters he had clashed with or the Kinahan cartel who made the final call to pull the trigger.
Doyle's killers pursued him as he went about his business on the afternoon of February 4, 2008. He was shot dead as he tried to escape on the outskirts of Estepona, west of Marbella.
He was travelling as usual with Hutch and Thompson.
The three were in a BMW 4x4 when the gunmen opened fire from another car.
Four shots were pumped into the front windscreen and another into the front passenger door before Hutch, who was driving, lost control of the vehicle.
It smashed into a lamp post and Doyle, who was a front seat passenger, tried to run away.
The gunman, however, began firing again, and the Irishman was hit twice in the head at point-blank range. The attack took place at the Bel-Air apartment complex shortly after lunchtime, and witnesses said the killers made their escape in another BMW 4x4.
Hutch was freaked out by what he had witnessed, and for most of the following year he spent his time hopping between Spain, Amsterdam and Dublin.
While remaining close to the cartel and being heavily involved in international drugs trafficking, the busy criminal still found time to be involved in organising the robbery of a record €7.6m from a Bank of Ireland distribution centre at College Green on February 27, 2009.
Ironically, the brutal tiger kidnap robbery happened less than a week after Hutch had been arrested by gardai in Finglas investigating his role in the murder of Derek Duffy two years earlier. The heist was carried out after an armed gang targeted a bank worker, his girlfriend, her mother and six-year-old nephew.
Around €1.7m of the stolen cash was recovered in a series of raids on homes and cars across Dublin city about 12 hours after the robbery, but the rest has never been found. With unprecedented heat from gardai, Hutch returned to Spain after being briefly detained in relation to the robbery.
He split his time between Spain and Amsterdam for most of 2009 and the first six months of 2010. This was a time when the Kinahan cartel's empire was growing by the week, with the mob making tens of millions of euro from flooding Ireland and the UK with drugs.
Hutch was an integral part of this massive international crime operation, and Spanish police documents obtained by the Herald show his role in the cartel. The dossier, which was prepared for the successful extradition of Thompson from Ireland to Spain in November 2011, revealed that Hutch was a senior player throughout 2009 and 2010.
According to Spanish police, Hutch and Thompson travelled to the south of Portugal from Spain on November 24, 2009 to organise a big drugs ship- ment. The dossier further revealed that Hutch and Thompson travelled to Amsterdam on May 15, 2010 with other members of the cartel for the same reason.
"As a result of investigations carried out in Spain and collaboration between Ireland and the UK, it is known that Freddie has been under investigation for narcotic-related offences in Ireland and Britain,'' the dossier reads.
"Thompson, together with Gary Hutch, are the men who are closest to Daniel Joseph Kinahan, as can be inferred from telephone tapping and surveillance operations."
The dossier continues by stating that Hutch and Thompson are Kinahan's "trusted right-hand men" and carry out jobs directly related to the organisation's criminal activities.
"Freddie and Gary are just one step below Daniel, are very close and share an equal status," it says.
"They sometimes give orders to each other without being able to determine who is higher up in the organisation.
"They are equals, good friends and share a flat."
The documents reveal that Spanish authorities noted that a car normally driven by Hutch was driven by another key Kinahan gang member at Malaga Airport on May 7, 2010, which reveals the level of surveillance that police had Hutch under at that time.
The Spanish also suspected that Hutch and Thompson were involved in procuring weapons for the cartel.
"One of Freddie's jobs is to obtain weapons for the rest of the organisation, as is evident from the conversation he held with Gary Hutch," the dossier reads.
"Like Gary, Freddie's duties also include acting as a bodyguard, chauffeur, etc.
"It has been deduced from investigations and surveillance activities that they had lived together in a flat in Nueva Andalucia [opposite Puerto Banus]."
The reason for the detailed surveillance on Hutch and other Kinahan cartel members is that an international pol-ice investigation code-named Operation Shovel was in place. It began after gardai made a major cannabis seizure in Kildare in 2008. This resulted in a series of arrests when more than 30 suspects, including Christy Kinahan and his sons Daniel and Christopher Jnr, were rounded up in high-profile raids on May 25, 2010.
(Earlier that month, it emerged that Christy Kinahan and his two sons expect to be tried soon on money-laundering charges in Spain.)
Only days after the raids, which made headlines across Europe, it emerged that Hutch had been named on a list of people who Spanish judges wanted to question following Kinahan's arrest.
In early June 2010, it was reported that an international arrest warrant had been issued for Hutch's arrest.
However, he could not be found by gardai or any European police forces.