NewsCrime Desk

Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Armstrong now a penniless pauper squatting in Spanish villa

Crime DeskBy Nicola Tallant
Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Armstrong
Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Armstrong

He was once the hardened playboy of the Costa Blanca, but Dubliner Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Armstrong is now more pauper than prince.

Almost a decade after he was lifted in connection with the death of two notorious Westies, he is still on bail and trapped in Spain by his criminal past.

The 44-year-old is on his knees after his luck took a dramatic downward turn in the years since he was dramatically lifted following the discovery of the remains of violent heroin dealers Shane Coates and Stephen Sugg.

The burly thug has told friends he wants to return to Ireland, but can’t because he is wanted here as A chief suspect for a dramatic city-centre bank raid.

The Sunday World understands that the balding crime figure has been reduced to squatting in vacant villas after becoming a father for a fifth time with his English girlfriend.

While his three Irish children from a previous relationship still go to visit him, his glory days are little more than a memory.

There was a time when Fat Tony was the toast of criminals on the Costa Blanca, where he ran a number of busy pubs and restaurants. He was also suspected of looking after investments for jailed drug lord John Gilligan and other close associates.

During the boom Fat Tony couldn’t spend all the money he was making. Tens of thousands were rolling in from his pubs as Spain partied hard and lax licensing laws meant the drink was served virtually 24/7. His villa in posh Los Balcones in Torrevieja was a regular spot for an all-night party.

Then it all went wrong.

Coates (31) and Sugg (27), were found shot dead and encased in a concrete grave in an Alicante warehouse in June 2006 and within days Armstrong was arrested at his villa and brought before the courts.

Fat Tony now squats in a villa 

As he would soon learn, the wheels of justice in Spain can often turn slowly and although no official charges were brought against him, Armstrong was held in prison for an incredible 10 months before he managed to get solicitors to apply for his release.

He was only released after friends loaned him €55,000 bail, but in the time he was away the landscape in Spain had undergone huge change.

On the brink of the worst recession in living memory, Armstrong was released to a very different financial climate and soon found that his once thriving businesses were no longer viable. 

Despite finding love with a younger English woman and having two more children, friends say Armstrong is now trapped in Alicante, where he has lost his home and now squats in a vacant villa

Now 13 years in Spain, Armstrong still cannot speak a word of Spanish and although he longs to return to Ireland he is terrified he would be arrested if he set foot in the country.

Armstrong was once a close associate of a number of leading criminals involved in drug distribution. His pal Paul Fitzgerald was busted by undercover Garda National Drugs Unit officers with €50,000 worth of cocaine in 2004 and received a 10-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to the trafficking charges.

Before fleeing to Spain, Armstrong was the chief suspect in a daring armed raid in Dublin’s city centre.

He went on the run following a €60,000 robbery at the TSB on Henry Street in the capital. Two other Dubliners, Martin Byrne and Joanne Dicker, were convicted of the crime.

The court heard that Dicker, from Ardmore Drive in Beaumont, had worked as a cashier in the TSB and had invited Byrne, from Coolock, to rob the bank in 2000.

She received a nine-month sentence for her part in the crime while Byrne, who was described as a hardened career criminal, got a four-year sentence.

“The fact of the matter is that Armstrong has absolutely nothing left in Spain and he is in a bad way out there,” a source told the Sunday World.

“He was doing brilliant at one stage and was the envy of everyone, but everything has turned bad for him and nowadays he is one of the people hanging around the bars rather than the one making money out of them.

“He still has to sign on, although they have shelved the Westies murder investigation and he is down to the tune of €55,000 on that one which he knows he will never get back.

“He would love to come back to Dublin, but he feels he would just be arrested if he did. He is a mess.

“To think a guy could go from what he went from to squatting just shows how little guarantees there are in the world of crime,” the source added.