A ‘Freddie Kruger’ rubber mask, leather gloves, a fisherman’s hat, prosthetic noses, wigs, a bulletproof vest, a camper’s rucksack purchased in Decathlon and a selection of night torches, glasses and tracking equipment were discovered in a property in Tallinn, Estonia, when it was raided during an investigation into the murder of a Lithuanian gangster.
Arakas, currently serving a sentence for a plot to kill Hutch associate James ‘Mago’ Gately in Newry in 2017, is wanted in the probe into the assassination of Diemantas ‘Diamond’ Bugavicius.
This week, the High Court will hear an appeal against his extradition to Lithuania for a pre-trial investigation into the killing which blew open a massive Eastern European gang, estimated to have made €680 million from drug trafficking and murder.
The Sunday World can today reveal how it was the murder of ‘Diamond’ – more than 3,000km away in the Baltics – that resulted in Arakas’s arrest in a Kinahan safehouse in Dublin and swept up senior mob men in the plot to kill Gately.
The story of Imre Arakas’ capture in granddad Stephen Fowler’s Blakestown Cottage is a measure of how co-operation between Europe’s police forces is working on an unprecedented level and is helping to dismantle major mafias, including the Kinahan Organised Crime Group.
The pictures taken by Estonian police show the level of professionalism that Arakas gave to his chosen career.
Despite being over six-foot tall and once sporting movie-star good looks, Arakas is understood to have floated around Europe posing as an outdoor enthusiast as he stalked his prey. In one photo, the contents of a rucksack, including pliers, razors, glue, nail polish, head torches and night-vision equipment, reveals the extent to which he planned his military-style reconnaissance missions to find the perfect place to shoot his targets.
Officers believe he often dressed as a woman and disguised his distinguished chiselled features with large noses and masks.
In an article published in the Police and Border Guard Agency’s Radar magazine in Estonia, Ago Leis, head of Estonia’s Organised Crime Bureau, described how a murder in Kaunas in Lithuania on a night in early November 2015 ultimately led to his capture in Dublin.
Then, two Estonians, found guilty this month of the murder of ‘Diamond’, ambushed the gangster outside a rented apartment complex after months of planning the murder. Previously unknown Arle Grabbi and Hans Erik Ehvert, enthusiasts in the ancient practice of medieval combat, have already been convicted of the murder.
Lithuanian authorities now say that Arakas was the director of the murder and they want to put him on trial once he is returned from Ireland.
In an interview, Ago Leis described how Arakas had been named by underworld sources as the killer when Lithuanian authorities called in help from their Estonian neighbours.
They began to track his movements and discovered that he had become a regular visitor to Ireland during 2016 and 2017 and that the Kinahan gang was known to have used his services before.
When it was discovered that he was planning a trip to Dublin in April 2017, Eastern European authorities contacted the Gardaí and Arakas was placed under surveillance as he disembarked a flight from Alicante.
“Disguises belong to the conspiracy. Later, while searching Arakas’ Tallinn home, we also found face masks and clip-on fake noses, in addition to gloves, hats and a bulletproof vest which should have ensured his safety,” the Estonian police chief said.
In Ireland, Arakas was arrested in the home of Stephen Fowler, who would later be jailed for his role in the plot to kill Gately along with other senior Kinahan members.
Gardaí believe that Arakas may have carried out other murders in Ireland but are still investigating his movements around Europe in recent years.
He is being considered a suspect in the assassination of famous gangster John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer, who was shot dead as he mowed the lawn of his Essex home. Palmer was killed by a bullet fired through a hole in his garden fence which was the only area not covered by CCTV around his vast property.
The Arakas case will be heard before the High Court this week.