MEET THE EMPEROR
He's the Keyser Soze of Irish gangland with links to the underworld's usual suspects
HE IS one of the most shadowy figures in Ireland's murky underworld.
For years he has kept a low profile, stayed out of the media and remained out of reach of the many gardai who are interested in his activities.
But this week the Sunday World caught up with the mobster Mr Fixit dubbed 'The Emperor'. Like the elusive gangster Keyser Soze in the hit mob flick The Usual Suspects, he uses a variety of identities and is known by different names to the criminal underworld.
He is a top-ranking gangster in a Romanian crime cartel with tentacles reaching around the globe and into almost every underworld racket.
The cartel operates like a secret society with a hierarchy in which members stick to strict rules and are identified by secret codewords and tattoos.
The Emperor blends easily into the capital's immigrant working population, which socialises and networks at a number of popular pubs and restaurants in Dublin's inner city.
But the calls he takes on his mobile are most likely linked to one of his many criminal interests such as human trafficking, prostitution, racketeering and widescale fraud.
Just the mention of his name is enough to instill fear among Romanians living in Ireland. Born in Eastern Europe, he has links to organised Romania crime cartels as well as the Russian mafia.
He is described by those who know him as a "franchise holder" for Eastern European criminals in Ireland with contacts in every area of the international criminal underworld.
The mob boss is one of a handful of gangsters who take a share of cash from foreign crime gangs operating in Ireland.
Despite operating in this country for more than a decade, The Emperor has avoided any serious criminal conviction while amassing a huge fortune.
While he may have a clean record in Ireland, he is well known among gardai and gangland alike.
"He has a finger in every pie - he's a clever individual who has managed to stay out of the public eye," a source told the Sunday World.
"People from his home country are genuinely terrified of him and his cronies. Gangsters only have to mention his name to get what they want," the source added.
Pumped up with steroids, the mob boss cuts a menacing figure criminals fear to cross. He is not afraid to use violence to intimidate terrified trafficking victims, who he puts to work in the sex trade and begging scams.
He is believed to be part of a network that trafficks young women from poor Romanian towns to Dublin and other western European capitals with the promise of a better life.
Instead, they end up servicing the sex trade. The Emperor is believed to be behind a number of brothels operating in Ireland and with supplying women to work as hookers.
Romanian crime gangs and prostitutes are major players in Ireland's lucrative sex-trade and dozens of women from the former Soviet-bloc country have been arrested here.
Last month, members of the Ghenosu gang appeared in court in Romania charged with running a prostitution ring in Ireland worth €2.3 million a year.
The likes of gang leader Florin Nicolae Ghinea could not have operated in Ireland without paying his share to The Emperor's organisation, according to Sunday World sources.
Sadist pimp Mihai Selarum, who was convicted of organising prostitution in Ireland, is another Romanian who tried to cash in on the sex-trade.
Trafficker Remus Fusteau, now serving seven years in jail, headed a gang that trafficked people to labour on Irish farms and then stole their cash from them every week.
Romanian gangsters can't operate in Ireland without permission from The Emperor or protection from another high-ranking gangster, according to Sunay World sources.
Our undercover investigators revealed how the former chairman of the Wicklow GAA county board was arranging loans from banks based on forged paperwork.
He got huge sums of cash for clients who couldn't get a loan because of their dodgy credit rating and creamed off a percentage for
But the more sinister side of Dignam's racket involved getting dodgy mortgage loans for organised criminals who used the cash to set up drugs and prostitution empires.
We can today reveal that The Emperor was the beneficiary of a number of Dignam's dodgy loans.
He earned hundreds of thousands in 'clean' cash and was able to use it to fund his other criminal activities and to purchase an upmarket Dublin pad.
Underworld sources also indicate he may even have worked alongside Dignam on the scam. He was lurking in the same hotel where dodgy Dignam met clients during our expose.
A loan from Dignam helped Wobblyboots set himself up as the chemist to Ireland's boomtime cocaine epidemic.
Around the time he and The Emperor were getting loans from Dignam, Meehan imported huge quantities of the legal dental drug lidocaine, which was used as a cocaine mixing agent by drug gangs.
He was later busted in a sting by Northern Ireland cops, smuggling guns into Ireland for his killer brother. The Emperor also does business with a veteran Irish underworld wheeler-anddealer known as 'Krusty the Clown', a Tipperary-native based in Dublin.
Krusty has been linked to massive drug deals and is regarded as part of the Irish criminal business elite with plenty of cash and connections.
The two co-operate in a variety of scams, including the theft of luxury cars, commercial vehicles and construction equipment which are smuggled out of the country for re-sale.
The Emperor arrived in Ireland more than 10 years ago and eventually married an Irish woman. He no longer lives with his wife,
according to our sources, but has been known to use her surname to create alternative identities for himself.
He is regarded as the Irish franchisee of an international gang based in Brussels, Belgium, and which is involved in EU-wide criminal scams.
The Emperor is known to have been directly involved in trafficking prostitutes, begging gangs, organising pickpocket scams, cigarette smuggling and ATM skimming operations.
He has managed to stay in Ireland despite attempts by the Garda National Immigration Bureau to have him deported. He has lived at various addresses, including one plush house in an upmarket west Dublin neighbourhood.
The gangster is also the prime suspect behind a major racket involving the theft of high-end cars which are shipped abroad for resale. Commercials vehicles and construction equipment are also targeted by stolen car rings for illegal export.
The career criminal has legitimate business interests as well, including the trade in second-hand clothes collected from charitable households around the country.
The clothes are sorted, baled and sold off to foreign buyers for €40 to €50 per ton. Rival collectors have clashed in the past, with innocent workers being targeted by gunmen twice in the last 18 months.
The Emperor was previously dubbed 'Fagin' by the Sunday World when we exposed a pick-pocketing ring in Dublin city centre.
During the height of scam, the gangster was making as much as €200,000 a month from the operation. More than 100 young Roma boys and girls were flown to Ireland from Spain and told to target tourists around College Green in Dublin city centre.
The pickpockets had to hand over credit cards, debit cards and cash they stole but could keep mobile phones. The cards were copied and replicas were then used to withdraw cash from ATM machines in other countries.
In one case, a cloned card was used in Madrid and Oslo 20 minutes after it was reported stolen in Dublin.
The teenage pickpockets go straight to work on arrival in Ireland and some were found with a local solicitor's business card in their pocket hours after landing in Ireland.
But there was little consideration shown to his young criminal compatriots by The Emperor, according to a Sunday World source.
The gangs of pickpockets were so prolific that city-centre gardai had to launch in initiative named 'Operation Hawkeye' to keep the thieves at bay and at one point were arresting eight pickpockets a day.
The risks faced by young Romanians drawn into the scams was brutally highlighted by the murder of Marioara Rostas whose body has never been found
She had just arrived in Ireland and was begging on the streets when she was lured to her death by a dangerous Irish criminal in 2008.
Beggar Eugenia Bratis also fell foul of the underworld when cash due to be sent back to Romanian went missing. Her body was found in the Phoenix Park in a brutal and unsolved murder.
Globalisation and the internet has also made it easier to transfer people and cash across borders, which has seen the black-market boom.
Mobsters from Russia, Romania and Kosovo regularly meet at a number of Dublin city-centre bars, Sunday World sources reveal.
The casually-dressed gangsters may look like ordinary immigrant workers, but in reality they are dangerous individuals, many with military training and experience. They quietly sort out deals and problems while appearing to be socialising together.
A rival criminal operation from eastern Europe is also known to be operating and there have been violent clashes between the two in the past.
The murder of a 32-year-old Romanian man in Drogheda a number of years ago is suspected to have been connected to the rival crime gangs who have been building networks in Ireland through the boom years.