Exposed: How an elusive ex-pat gangster controls George ‘The Penguin’ Mitchell’s bagmen
Underworld banker Patrick Lawlor poses as homeless pauper
Underworld banker Patrick Lawlor poses as a homeless beggar in the back garden of his plush Dublin house and smirks for the camera.
But the 56-year-old money launderer has been far from poor while living on a hefty gangland salary – the equivalent of a €100,000-a-year job and working just a few days a month.
His boss, Robbie Murphy, is one of the most elusive figures of the underworld and had managed to stay off the radar for decades until gardai grabbed his bagman and seized the ‘company’ ledgers.
They showed that €12 million went through the books in Ireland in one year alone and more than €90,000 was spent on encrypted mobile phones to hide traces of the laundered loot.
Gardai followed the trail to Liverpool where the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) identified a close associate of Murphy and his girlfriend, who they believe were ‘washing’ further funds through a high-profile hair salon.
Murphy, a convicted armed robber from Artane, is a lifelong friend and business associate of George ‘The Penguin’ Mitchell and the pair holiday every year together on yachts off North Africa.
While they have worked together for decades, officers believe the busted network was only overseen by Murphy, who employed Lawlor and his taxi driver sidekick Ross Hanway like normal members of staff with monthly wages, Christmas bonuses and regular salary increases.
Lawlor was nabbed as he tried to move more than €400,000 in Hanway’s taxi. A follow-up search at his home uncovered another €500,000 in a variety of different currencies in the garden shed. Later, a bank account containing more than €100,000 was frozen and a luxury Mercedes car was seized.
He remains under investigation by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) while evidence discovered during the bust in Ireland has uncovered a treasure trove of intelligence about Murphy.
Lawlor was handed down a seven-year sentence this week while Hanway got four years in jail. Neither had any previous convictions and had remained beneath the radar for years while holding key roles in the drugs mob.
A wider investigation into Murphy has identified his movements between the Netherlands, Portugal and South America.
Murphy is one of the lowest profile drug bosses operating globally and he has remained so reclusive and careful of his image that no photographs of him exist on public forums.
He holidays every summer on a yacht off the Canary Islands along with Mitchell and other members of their tight circle.
Gardai believe he operates his drug business totally separately to the finances, and those working in key roles in each department have no idea who is in the other.
Murphy and Mitchell have long appeared to be the ones who got away, but a series of blows to their operations in Ireland have left them reeling.
Both run their drug and money laundering empires with military precision. They are believed to have developed their own code language and are obsessive about keeping low profiles and off phones, unless encrypted.
They keep on the move, staying between apartments and homes and hotel rooms across Europe, Asia, North Africa and South America.
Both grew up in Dublin but fled Ireland in the mid 1990s along with the big league heroin, ecstasy and cannabis dealers who found themselves facing a major crackdown on their activities from both the gardai and the Provisional IRA.
Murphy and Mitchell left along with Thomas ‘The Boxer’ Mullen and Derek ‘Maradona’ Dunne and all were seen as responsible for the second wave heroin epidemic that slammed already hard hit and impoverished communities in the 1990s.
They fell foul of the IRA and their own communities and first moved in and out of the country fearing for their safety and basing themselves between the UK and the Netherlands.
Murphy settled in Amsterdam with Mitchell and the pair began to work together, building a huge wholesale network which saw them deal directly with Colombian drug lords to increase their profits.
Officers from the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau have repeatedly sought to damage Mitchell and Murphy’s Irish operations in whatever way they can, while working with international partners sharing intelligence and tip offs.
However, their network and reach is believed to be of similar size and scale to the Kinahan Organised Crime Group, which they once worked with.
Both Mitchell and Murphy took a ‘neutral’ stance on the Kinahan/Hutch feud after it kicked off in earnest in 2016, refusing to take sides with either party. Mitchell even moved to Germany for a period and away from the Costa Del Sol where he had been living for more than 10 years with his Dutch-Moroccan girlfriend.
Murphy stayed on the move, travelling across Europe and in and out of South America. However, he has had officers on his tail and despite his best efforts to keep the running of his business a secret, he will be counting the costs of the gardai’s targeting of his financial fixers.
This week, Lawlor and Hanway pleaded guilty to possessing cash which was the proceeds of crime and painted themselves as tragic figures to the court.
Lawlor claimed he’d fallen on hard times, borrowed money from criminals and then been tortured before he agreed to his involvement in the gang. Hanway, the court heard, has mental health issues. He earned €4,000 a month for driving Lawlor in his taxi with the cash and had been working for Murphy for five years.
Lawlor’s son Ian was also jailed after drugs were found in the house during the search.
Detective Garda Ronan Dillon previously told the court that following a tip-off officers from the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau set up a surveillance operation on the Lawlor home at Collins Avenue West in Dublin, and saw the father leave with a heavy rucksack on his back.
They watched as he got into a taxi which pulled up alongside him without being flagged. When gardai stopped the car the rucksack was found to contain €412,000 in cash, while both had encrypted phones.
George Mitchell was last tracked down to a sleepy German town in the Mosel Valley by the Sunday World in 2015 which linked him to an underground bunker hosting dark net activities. He was then attempting to launch his own encrypted phone network.
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