Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh faces justice court hears he trafficked 22 drug shipments into UK

The veteran gangland figure was described in court as the head of a massive drugs importation network

Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh. Photo: RollingNews.ie

Nicola Tallant

Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh finally faced justice today as a sentencing hearing heard how he oversaw a massive drugs ring responsible for 22 major importations into the UK over a single one-year period.

Kavanagh and his two co-defendants Gary Vickery and Daniel Canning all pleaded guilty today to playing a “leading role” in a massive drugs importation operation in Ipswich Crown Court

The court was told Kavanagh was at the head of the drugs trafficking network with Vickery beneath him and Canning subordinate to him.

All three men used codenames during their phone communications in a bid to avoid police detection, with Bomber going by the name ‘Plasma’ or ‘the Gaffer’, Vickery was known as ‘Jelly’ and Canning as ‘Smiley’.

Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh

The court was told how code words were also used for the drugs, with cannabis referred to as ‘Jackets’ and cocaine as ‘Phones’.

Last year, Dubliner Vickery (38) was extradited to the UK after being arrested by the Guardia Civil in Lanzarote where he has lived since 2017. Canning had surrendered himself to UK officials last year.

During evidence given in the court, it was detailed how a total of 23 separate importations between October 28, 2016 and October 2, 2017 were linked to Bomber’s network.

Kavanagh – a brother-in-law of mobster Liam Byrne – has been based in the UK after leaving Ireland in the 90s after coming to the attention of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

For the last two decades, he has been one of the most prolific traffickers of drugs into Ireland from his base in the UK’s Midlands.

In recent years, he forged a key partnership with Daniel Kinahan – in effect controlling the UK wing of the Kinahan Cartel.

It is understood that the so-called 'Bomb Squad' had a turnover of more than €100 million over the past decade and Kavanagh and others invested heavily in property and businesses in the Balearic and Canary Islands, as well as in the UK, in order to wash their funds.

Thomas Kavanagh, Gary Vickery and Daniel Canning

Today, the court was told how the drugs were smuggled into the UK in machinery specifically altered to conceal large quantities of cocaine and cannabis.

Evidence was also given about how packages of cannabis were marked as ‘Rolex’ or ‘Manchester United’ and the cocaine was marked as ‘54’.

Kavanagh also used a network of trucks to transport the cash back to his suppliers in mainland Europe.

One of the shipments intercepted included 15 kilos of cocaine and 200 kilos of cannabis.

During a follow up search, a Smith and Wesson pistol was also recovered at a premises in Wolverhampton.

Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh

Ongoing investigations related to Bomber Kavanagh's role in the Hutch-Kinahan feud in Ireland are still underway and it is understood he could face further charges here, where his senior lieutenants Peadar Keating and Declan Brady are already serving sentences.

Kavanagh and his wife Joanne live in a luxury home in Tamworth, on the outskirts of Birmingham, bought in the years after his Dublin home was seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).

The gated mansion, complete with an outdoor bar, is surrounded with millionaire homes in the middle-class UK suburb.

Liam Byrne, who is a brother of Joanne and murdered David Byrne, has already lost his Dublin home to the CAB and has since been living nearby in a house registered to a family friend.

The hearing continues this afternoon.

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