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Wig change From 'dangerous criminal' to 'changed man' - the life and crimes of Graham Whelan

He has close links to the Byrne Organised Crime Group who form part of the Kinahan cartel.

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Graham Whelan (38) of Walkinstown Avenue, Dublin 12 PIC Collins Courts

Graham Whelan (38) of Walkinstown Avenue, Dublin 12 PIC Collins Courts

Graham Whelan (38) of Walkinstown Avenue, Dublin 12 PIC Collins Courts

KINAHAN-linked mobster Graham ‘the Wig’ Whelan told gardai he was a “dangerous criminal” when they arrested him in a plush penthouse suite at a Dublin hotel in 2019 but claims to have since made a “dramatic change” in his life as he awaits sentencing on money laundering charges.

For more than two decades, Whelan (39), originally from Clonard Road in Crumlin, has been centrally involved in organised crime but he suffered a major blow last year following the tragic death of his wife followed by the suicide earlier this year of his close pal Philip Griffiths.

He has close links to the Byrne Organised Crime Group who form part of the Kinahan cartel.

Whether Whelan has given up on a life of crime remains to be seen but his attitude to being jailed has certainly changed since, at the age of 17, he told gardai he could do 10 years in jail “standing on his head” after he was one of three men caught with IR£1.25m (€1.6m) worth of ecstasy tablets and cocaine at the Holiday Inn Hotel on Pearse Street, Dublin, in 2000.

Whelan, Griffiths and Declan Gavin were all charged in relation to the haul which sparked off the infamous Crumlin-Drimnagh feud which claimed the lives of 16 people over a decade.

The gang split into two factions one led by Fat Freddie Thompson and the other led by Brian Rattigan.

The first casualty of the feud was Gavin who was stabbed to death by gang boss Brian Rattigan outside Abrakebabra on the Crumlin Road in Dublin in 2001 a week before his trial was due to start. Rattigan had accused Gavin of being a garda informant.

In the end, Whelan, who remained loyal to the Thompson faction, was handed a six-year sentence for the drugs bust while Griffiths was sentenced to seven years.

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Graham “The Wig” Whelan, at the Criminal Courts of Justice

Graham “The Wig” Whelan, at the Criminal Courts of Justice

Graham “The Wig” Whelan, at the Criminal Courts of Justice

Whelan and Griffiths continued their involvement in organised crime following their release from prison in the mid-2000s and were still close up until Griffiths took his own life in February.

Whelan had close links to Thompson as well as the Byrne family who, by the time of Whelan’s release from prison, were major players in the Irish underworld.

Whelan was arrested in 2007 in connection with the 2006 murder of hitman Gary Bryan as part of the Crumlin Drimnagh feud but was later released without charge.

Whelan had been spotted driving past Bryan’s mother-in-law’s home minutes before the shooting and Bryan was planning to get out of the area but was shot dead outside the home before he could flee.

Bryan was shot dead by the Thompson faction in revenge for his role in the murder of Paul Warren who was shot dead in 2004 by the Rattigan faction.

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David Byrne, who was later shot dead in the Regency Hotel as part of the Kinahan Hutch feud, was also arrested with Whelan over the Bryan murder but also released without charge.

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Graham 'The Wig' Whelan

Graham 'The Wig' Whelan

Graham 'The Wig' Whelan

Gardai discovered that a mobile phone registered to a relative of Byrne was in frequent contact with Whelan on the day of Bryan’s murder.

Byrne was a close associate of Whelan but refused to discuss their connection when interviewed by gardai.

The pair were arrested at the same time and Byrne handed gardai newspapers which he asked them to give to Whelan who was in an adjoining cell.

When gardai examined the newspapers, they discovered a note written by Byrne saying, “Loose lips, sink ships”.

Like Whelan, David Byrne was suspected of involvement in the Crumlin Drimnagh feud and was present when his pal Declan Gavin was stabbed to death outside Abrakebabra back in 2001.

Whelan continued to move up the ranks over the years and was heavily involved in running the cartels drug network in south Dublin over a number of years and liaised with other dealers around the country including Limerick gangs.

He had become such a big player that gardai had targeted him under anti-gang legislation introduced over a decade ago.

Gardai presented a dossier on Whelan to the DPP hopeful that charges would be brought against him under the legislation after one of his bag men was arrested with cash in 2009. During the raid officers found a list with name of people and amounts paid along with multiple references to Whelan’s nickname “Wig” which sources claim he had since he was a teenager due to a haircut he had.

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David Byrne was gunned down at the Regency Hotel.

David Byrne was gunned down at the Regency Hotel.

David Byrne was gunned down at the Regency Hotel.

The DPP decided not to press charges under the anti-gang legislation but knowing the heat was on him Whelan moved to the UK in 2011 where he linked up with senior cartel figure Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh who was a brother in law of David Byrne. Whelan is suspected of helping oversee major drug operations between Europe, Ireland and the UK after leaving Ireland. He also frequently travelled to Spain and Holland during this time.

He regularly returned to Ireland recent years and is suspected of helping oversee the cartel’s drug operations here.

He was belligerent when gardai raided a plush suite he had rented at Intercontinental Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, on January 31, 2019 and found him in possession of €1,275 and a €28k watch which were later found to be the proceeds of crime. He had also paid over €2,100 for a three-night stay at the hotel.

When gardai asked where he got the cash, he said he had gotten it from “up his Swiss roll" and told them to keep it.

During the raid, Whelan also told gardaí he was "a dangerous criminal" and added, "ask that fella there; he locked me up", referring to Sergeant Michael Twomey, who was present at the hotel

Whelan was referring to his arrest at the Holiday Inn back in 2000.

Following his 2019 arrest, almost 20 homes and businesses linked to Whelan were targeted in a major Criminal Assets Bureau operation.

Whelan subsequently pleaded guilty to participating in the actions of an organised crime group by laundering money for the group and being in possession of €1.2k in cash and a €28k watch, the proceeds of crime as well as paying €2,140 for a three-night stay at the hotel at Room 342, knowing or believing that the money was the proceeds of criminal conduct, contrary to Section 7 of the Act.

Whelan further pleaded guilty to possession of amounts of cannabis at the hotel and cocaine at his Walkinstown home, worth €20 each.

He also pleaded guilty to using money, knowing or believing the money to be the proceeds of crime, to refurbish his Walkinstown Avenue home between August 21, 2018 and May 1, 2018.

The court heard that Whelan had 33 previous convictions; five of which were for drug offences. The witness said that Whelan had also been convicted of grievous bodily harm in Spain after a "bar brawl" and had a fully-suspended two-year sentence imposed on him in November 2016.

The court heard Whelan was father of four children, aged between three and 10, and that his partner had taken her own life in 2020. His defence counsel said that the death of Whelan's partner led to a "dramatic change" in his client's life.

The case has been adjourned to November 15 for sentencing.

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