A garda manhunt has been launched for a dangerous Kinahan cartel mobster who is wanted in relation to an elaborate murder plot that was foiled in the capital.
On Monday night, heavily armed detectives from the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) intercepted a car in the north inner city and seized a loaded Beretta pistol fitted with a silencer.
Four well-known criminals were arrested for conspiring to murder violent drug dealer Gary Hanley (28), who has close links to the Hutch organised crime gang.
The Herald can exclusively reveal that:
- Gardai are still attempting to track down a 33-year-old cartel member who they suspect played a prominent role in orchestrating the murder plot
- The Blackrock home of a 39-year-old cartel associate, who is suspected of involvement in the conspiracy but hasn't been arrested, was searched
- A number of the Hutch mob's "heavy hitters", who are among the most dangerous criminals in the capital, made contact with the intended target yesterday and have threatened to strike back against the cartel
- Extra security was yesterday put in place at the garda stations where the arrested men were being questioned, over fears that Hutch associates would attempt an attack
- The surveillance operation that led to the arrests had been ongoing for several months and involved the monitoring of cars and houses by specialist detectives.
As part of Monday night's massive bust, 10 properties were searched and seven vehicles were also seized to be forensically examined.
Gardai were last night attempting to track down the well-known member of the Kinahan cartel who is suspected of playing a prominent role in the murder plot.
This 33-year-old criminal has been involved with organised crime groups since his teens and is suspected of carrying out a number of attacks for the Kinahan cartel.
These include last year's attempted murder of John Hutch (64), the brother of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch, who escaped injury after being targeted at his inner-city home. However, a source last night revealed there were fears that the wanted man has fled the country.
"Attempts are being made to track down this thug, who regularly returns to the jurisdiction from abroad," the source said.
It has also emerged that a 39-year-old man, who resides in the leafy Blackrock area, is suspected of being involved in the murder plot.
He has been linked to the Kinahan cartel for a number of years, and his home was searched as part of the probe into Monday night's foiled murder.
Last night, detectives were continuing to question the four well-known Dublin criminals for allegedly conspiring to murder Hutch gang associate Hanley (28).
Those detained include a volatile 38-year-old hitman for hire, who was only recently released from prison.
He was arrested in his car near his family home in Christchurch, Dublin 8, on Monday night.
The Herald revealed at the time he was let out of jail 16 people had to be given security advice because of his release, which was the subject of a major garda alert.
This man is already a suspect in a string of gangland murders but has barely any previous convictions, and was cleared of charges in a gruesome murder case.
Senior sources said at the time of his release that gardai had serious concerns the evil mobster may offer himself up as a hitman for hire for the gangsters involved in the bloody Hutch-Kinahan feud - and so it has proved.
Also arrested was a 35-year-old criminal who is considered a high-ranking member of the Kinahan cartel.
This individual was apprehended at his apartment in the south inner city by members of the Armed Support Unit (ASU). Investigators suspect that he was the person responsible for organising the hit.
It emerged last night that the gangster has become an "organiser" within the cartel's operations - a serious role in which he would have very little experience.
Although not arrested at the scene, this "highly dangerous" duo were linked to the conspiracy through mobile phone intelligence and other surveillance gathered by detectives.
The volatile hitman's cousin - a 23-year-old criminal who survived an attempt on his life in west Dublin four years ago - was arrested on Philipsburgh Avenue in Fairview allegedly in possession of the firearm. This Ballyfermot criminal has been involved in gang violence since he was in his early teens.
He was travelling with a 36-year-old career criminal from Drimnagh, who was only recently released from prison after serving a sentence for explosives and firearms offences.
This drug addict was previously busted with the 35-year-old high-ranking cartel member.
Security has been increased at a number of Dublin garda stations as detectives continue to question those arrested in relation to the foiled murder.
Members of the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB) have been called in amid fears that associates of the intended target could attempt an attack on the suspects.
Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll, who heads Special Crimes Operations, said the operation was one of the most significant carried out in the history of the State which didn't involve subversives.
The senior garda also paid tribute to the officers who were involved in Monday night's arrests.
"Clearly with an intervention like this there is a serious level of risk assessment that takes place. You have members of An Garda Siochana putting their own lives at risk," said Mr O'Driscoll.
And he warned of more arrests.
"There are people whose doors we will be knocking at, who we will be arresting as part of this," he said.