NewsCrime Desk

Key Limerick underworld figure arrested in Belgium

Jim 'Chaser' O'Brien
Jim 'Chaser' O'Brien

A KEY player in Limerick’s criminal underworld has been arrested in Belgium thanks to the country’s security clampdown in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks.

International drug trafficker Jim ‘Chaser’ O’Brien (inset) is suspected of possessing bogus passports amid tighter security in his adopted home.

The former Limerick publican fled Ireland in 2003 after the city’s underworld feud kicked into full swing with the murder of Kieran Keane Snr.

Sources said this week that 53-year-old O’Brien had been picked up by Belgium security forces last month and taken into custody.

“Because of the security situation there, identity and passport checks are being taken very seriously by the police,” a source told the Sunday World.

A spokesperson for the Belgian Federal Police said that they cannot comment on ongoing cases.

O’Brien previously spent time behind bars in Belgium when he was arrested in a police operation targeting a major drugs operation.

He was arrested in 2005 in Antwerp after police smashed a major European drugs operation.

Operation Sword was set up by the Gardaí to capture O’Brien in 2004 and included police in Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and the U.K.

Following a year behind bars, O’Brien was freed from prison and returned to Ireland.

He lived in Cork for a while, where he became involved in a wine importation business.

Sources told the Sunday World that O’Brien has remained a significant player in the drugs trade.

A huge stash of drugs worth over €1m was seized by Gardaí in April 2011 and is believed to have been shipped to Ireland by O’Brien.

O’Brien began life on his family’s farm in Co. Limerick, before he entered the bar trade. He did well in the business and opened Chaser O’Brien’s pub in Pallasgreen in the early 1990s.

O’Brien later bought another popular night-club and venue in the city, but got increasingly close to figures in the city’s gangland underworld.

In 2003 he fled the city when he feared being arrested by Gardaí investigating the murder of Kieran Keane.

Although not involved in the brutal slaying, one of those later convicted, Dessie Dundon, had been stopped in O’Brien’s car and falsely gave officers his name when stopped.

O’Brien managed to stay out of the 10-year feud and avoided serious jail time.