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Drug wars How wiretaps and bugging devices helped gardai bring the Kinahan Cartel to its knees

More than 60 men and women are behind bars as a direct result of Kinahan mafia feud activity


Daniel Kinahan has surrounded himself with a tight inner circle in his desert bolthole in Dubai

Daniel Kinahan has surrounded himself with a tight inner circle in his desert bolthole in Dubai

Daniel Kinahan has surrounded himself with a tight inner circle in his desert bolthole in Dubai

It’s been a five-year war on organised crime that has changed the landscape of the underworld and how An Garda Síochána should fight gangland in Ireland forever.

Never before has a relentless campaign against one mob been so successful in terms of convictions, seizures and as a message from the State that there is no tolerance of any level of criminality when it comes to drug wars.

More than 60 men and women are now behind bars as a direct result of Kinahan mafia feud activity. Many others in jail on unrelated offences have identified themselves as being affiliated to the Organised Crime Group, while 30 are serving time for gun crimes ordered by mob bosses.

A further 30 are targets of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and officers from the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB) continue to push onwards to the biggest prize of all – the leadership of a mob that in February 2016 seemed untouchable in gangland.

Just like the eventual demise of Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, shared intelligence, wiretaps and co-operation between police forces has proven to be the recipe for success in bringing down the big guns.

The vital use of legislation in place to allow surveillance has proved invaluable and must continue into the future of policing.

The fact is, for the last five years gardaí have been all ears – and by bugging mob members in their cars, in houses and at secret meeting locations, as well as wiretapping their calls and deciphering encrypted communications, they have got up close and very personal with gangland.

In short, the Kinahan soldiers have talked themselves into jail.


Two gunmen, one dressed in drag, flee The Regency Hotel

Two gunmen, one dressed in drag, flee The Regency Hotel

Two gunmen, one dressed in drag, flee The Regency Hotel

In the aftermath of the Regency Hotel attack on February 5, 2016, which resulted in an onslaught of murder from the Kinahan and Byrne Organised Crime Groups, a five-year plan was devised to dismantle the international mafia which they had become. That involved developing working relationships with law enforcement counterparts from Australia to the US and across Europe.

Among the agencies that have played their part to demolish the Kinahan empire have been Spain’s Guardia Civil, Europol, the UK’s NCA and the US Custom and Border Patrol, Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

This week, as the fifth anniversary of the events at an MGM boxing weigh-in are marked, sources say the final takedown is underway and the directors of violence are now fighting for their freedom against a ticking clock.

At the very top of the wanted list is Daniel Kinahan, the would-be boxing powerbroker who was credited with organising a much-anticipated clash between heavyweight ‘Gypsy King’ Tyson Fury and the world champion Anthony Joshua.

He has rarely left Dubai in the United Arab Emirates since he fled there shortly before members of the Guardia Civil, working with the Garda’s Drug and Organised Crime Bureau, burst through the doors of his Marbella gym and later arrested his friend James Quinn for the murder of Gary Hutch.


Daniel Kinahan is arrested by Spanish police

Daniel Kinahan is arrested by Spanish police

Daniel Kinahan is arrested by Spanish police

From his powerbase in the desert, he hosted an international crime summit at his 7-star wedding to gangland widow Caoimhe Robinson in the summer of 2017, which was attended by members of a so-called ‘super cartel’ made up of Kinahan’s Irish mafia, a representative of Italy’s Ndrangheta, the Bosnia-based Tito and Dino Cartel and the so-called Mocro Mafia, currently on trial in the Netherlands for murder, drug dealing and money laundering.

Kinahan is surrounded by a tight inner circle in Dubai. Sean McGovern, wanted for questioning in Ireland about his whereabouts at the time of the Noel ‘Duck Egg’ Kirwan murder, also relocated to Dubai where he lives with his partner Anita Freeman and their children.

Senior sources say McGovern, once a sidekick of Liam and the late David Byrne, is Kinahan’s most loyal servant and has operated as his advisor throughout his feud with the Hutch faction.

Ross Browning, who is the subject of a major proceeds-of-crime case being taken by the Criminal Assets Bureau, has also moved to the sun-soaked, high-rise city in the past six months and remains there while the case against him makes its way through the courts.

A number of other key Kinahan lieutenants are in Spain, where they have been under surveillance as they network with other major drug buyers and suppliers to keep the product flowing and the money flooding in.

As a big-time wholesaler into Europe, Daniel Kinahan never has to get his hands dirty and simply controls the finances that keep the show on the road.

Despite his confident steps into the limelight in recent months, as he attempted to reinvent himself as a boxing powerbroker, Daniel Kinahan can be under no illusion but that the game is almost up and that the Garda force who he has tried to mock and ridicule have proven their mettle.

More than 60 Kinahan associates are now behind bars after some of the most successful undercover operations in the history of the State. Others have indicated they are Kinahan aligned, including murderer Barry Doyle, who has been appointed as the mob’s top man behind bars.

All are understood to be on the payroll of the mafia organisation for their silence and their loyalties but, like all criminal gangs, they will implode as the top structure crumbles.


Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh arriving at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court in the UK

Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh arriving at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court in the UK

Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh arriving at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court in the UK

Together with the National Crime Agency in the UK, gardaí have almost completely dismantled the Byrne Organised Crime Group, who worked hand in hand with Kinahan for years. In simple terms, the Byrne grouping were the UK and Irish wing of the Kinahan mafia.

In England, boss Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh awaits sentencing for major criminal conspiracy along with two of his closest associates, Gary Vickery and Daniel Canning.

They had no idea that the NCA was working with their counterparts in the Garda’s DOCB or that they were being bugged and wiretapped as they conducted their business.

‘Bomber’, it is believed, was even recorded giving his underlings instructions on the ‘science of fear’ and how to use it on would-be victims.

He should have known to be extra careful.

His former partner, James Mulvey, was wire-tapped too while on the run from justice. He was even heard telling a girlfriend: “They come after the ones you love.”

The father-of-five was eventually captured by armed police in Lithuania before being extradited and convicted on two counts of drugs importation at Birmingham Crown Court in June 2018.

Encrochat investigations in the UK continue after a major sweep-up of criminals, including those close to the Kinahan network and customers who have been buying guns and drugs from them.

In Ireland, the secretive weapons man Declan Brady, aka ‘Mr Nobody’, had no idea that he was under surveillance until he was busted on January 24, 2017.


Declan Brady, aka 'Mr Nobody', is arrested by gardai

Declan Brady, aka 'Mr Nobody', is arrested by gardai

Declan Brady, aka 'Mr Nobody', is arrested by gardai

Neighbours thought he was a successful transport operator – and he believed that everyone else did too.

Instead, he had become filthy rich as Bomber’s weapons and warehousing man and ran an industrial premises which was the holding depot for most of the hardware used during the bloodiest months of the feud until the killings waned in 2018.

Brady was so careful to keep his double life secret that he changed clothes and cars on the way to work and regularly travelled abroad to take instruction.

At Greenogue Business Park in west Dublin, it all came to an end when his ‘transport company’ was raided and the Garda’s Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau’s months of work netted the biggest arms seizure in the history of the State.

Along with Brady, Jonathan Harding, a convicted drug dealer known as ‘Rocket Man’, was also lifted, along with James Walsh and Sean Ruth, who is due to be sentenced soon.

The gardaí, watching and listening to the men, had picked their time to move carefully.

Four of the 17 guns found that day were loaded and primed for ‘imminent use’ and intelligence suggested that a plan was in place to murder several Hutch associates simultaneously to mark the first anniversary of the killing of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel.

It wasn’t the only spectacular hit that was averted.

Officers also foiled a murder plot to shoot Patsy Hutch the previous September as he knelt at his son Gary’s grave to mark the anniversary of his passing.

A female relative of Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch was also saved after wiretap intelligence discovered that she was being targeted.

Brady’s brother, Michael, was also caught in the sting when he was found in a house later discovered to be a storage facility for heroin and guns. He was found guilty of possession of the drugs.

Other members of Bomber’s inner circle remain before the courts. Peadar Keating, who is understood to have been his main man in Ireland, is facing charges relating to directing the activities of an organised crime group, while Stephen Fowler, Douglas Glynn and David Duffy are all facing charges relating to an assassination attempt on Hutch target James ‘Mago’ Gately.


Hitman-for-hire Imre Arakas

Hitman-for-hire Imre Arakas

Hitman-for-hire Imre Arakas

The mob’s desire to kill Gately, which also resulted in the arrest and jailing of international hitman Imre Arakas, has been second only to their bloodlust for Patsy Hutch – the ultimate marked man living under a critical level threat of death.

Each hit attempt ordered, funded and directed from abroad, has failed – but none more spectacularly than the one which netted gardaí the biggest number of criminal convictions for a single botched crime.

The jailing of Patrick Curtis for 10 years at the Special Criminal Court brought to nine the amount of men convicted in connection with a single plot to kill Hutch in the winter of 2018.

Curtis grew up just one kilometre from where he planned to murder his neighbour. The undercover operation that prevented the hit taking place was one of the most expensive ever undertaken by An Garda Síochána – but it was worth every cent.

Curtis was jailed along with ‘foot soldier’ Mohammed Smew, who got seven-and-a-half years for supplying getaway vehicles for the hit that never happened.

They join Mark Capper, who got seven-and-a-half years after a court heard he was dropped at the last minute from the gang.

The would-be hit team was made up of a down-on-his-luck Afghan war hero, Robert Brown, jailed for 11-and-a-half years, and the brothers Gary and Glen Thompson, who got 12-and-a-half years each.

Michael Burns, supervisor, and Ciaran O’Driscoll, a spotter who was a neighbour of Hutch, also pleaded guilty to helping the Kinahan Organised Crime Group with the attempted murder.

The tenth gang member only communicated with Curtis through an encrypted mobile phone on a secure network with messages that deleted automatically once they had been read.

He is known only by the pseudonym ‘Lord Knows’ but one day he will be identified, as huge leaps are being made in cracking encrypted networks, including the Encrochat one the phone was listed to.

During his sentence hearing, Capper made history when he was the first person named in an Irish court as an official member of Kinahan’s gang.

The court’s findings were based on evidence of Detective Superintendent David Gallagher, who told the court that the Kinahan Organised Crime Group operates inside and outside Ireland, enforces its writ through violence and murder and is based in the Middle East.

The hit team was made up of those stupid enough to believe that the Kinahan mafia are untouchable, while not realising the huge efforts and resources that have been poured into shutting them down.

Another hit team also perished from their own loose lips.


Dean Howe, left, and Liam Brannigan

Dean Howe, left, and Liam Brannigan

Dean Howe, left, and Liam Brannigan

Alan and Luke Wilson, Joseph Kelly, Liam Brannigan and Dean Howe were all caught in a similar Garda surveillance and bugging operation when officers overheard conversations about plans for the gang’s earnings when they eventually would get the chance to kill Hutch associate Gary Hanley.

For three months gardaí stalked their prey as the hit team watched Hanley.

At one point, 200 officers were involved and the scale of the operation was only evident when Detective

Superintendents Seamus Boland and Dave Gallagher, along with Detective Inspector Noel Browne, testified in court.

Officers from the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau have had a rollercoaster ride over the past five years, discovering gun stashes, drug hauls and tracing tracking devices, storage facilities and guns.

The Criminal Assets Bureau has followed closely at their heels, like a massive hoover sweeping up cash, cars, houses and jewellery once paid for with the earnings of drug crime.

Never before has An Garda Síochána in its history had such success nor have the elite units worked so well together.

And as the five-year plan, put together following the Regency Hotel attack, moves into its final takedown phase, a fresh confidence exists amongst all those involved that the good fight will win out.

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Online Editors