Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh and 'Mr Nobody' took New York trip weeks before crime network collapse
Kinahan cartel’s ‘main man in the UK’ Kavanagh was jailed for 21 years this week
Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh and his key Irish associate 'Mr Nobody' enjoyed a celebratory trip to the US just weeks before the garda operation that would bring down their crime network.
Kavanagh (54), described as the Kinahan cartel's "main man in the UK", was this week jailed for 21 years for heading up a drug gang that imported €36m worth of cocaine and cannabis into England in one year.
The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) were tipped off to front companies being used by the gang after gardaí found documents at a cartel weapons storage facility in Dublin.
The raid, in January 2017, led to 15 weapons being seized and four men being charged including Declan Brady, a secretive criminal known as 'Mr Nobody'.
Gardaí believe that he was 'Bomber' Kavanagh's key associate in Ireland and oversaw the gang's logistics network here.
Just weeks earlier the associates had travelled to New York with 10 other men and were pictured together "in celebration".
The image, obtained by The Sunday World, was recovered from the phone of Gary Vickery who this week received 20 years imprisonment for his leading role in the UK drug network.
In a WhatsApp message, Vickery (39) also wrote underneath the image: "Haha this is worth the money".
NCA investigators noted in their prosecution file that the group appeared to be in New York and had gathered "in apparent celebrations".
A smiling Declan Brady is visible in the picture, taken in November 2016, but just two months later he would be in handcuffs after being arrested at the Greenogue industrial estate with the arsenal of weapons.
Brady is currently serving an 18-year jail term in relation to the seizure and for money laundering offences.
Among the evidence seized in the Greenogue bust was documentation connected to a UK logistics company in the Midlands linked to Vickery and Daniel Canning, jailed for 19.5 years for his role in the conspiracy.
Following the tip-off, the NCA placed the unit under surveillance which would lead to the crime network being uncovered and the key men jailed.
Investigations established that Canning (43) took 26 flights across Europe within a year to oversee the drug shipments for the gang.
When arrested by the NCA, Gary Vickery said he was introduced to Declan Brady through mutual friends, that there were times when they socialised in a large group, and that he had spoken to him about buying and selling vehicles.
When police searched his Midlands home, they also found numbers for SIM cards linked to tracking devices seized at Greenogue.
As part of the major probe the NCA also established that in May 2017 Kavanagh travelled to Dubai where the Kinahan cartel hierarchy are based.
The agency's deputy director Matt Horne this week described 'Bomber' as a senior associate of the cartel and their "main man in the UK".
In total 26 messages sent from him were uncovered in which he directed his subordinates to the location of drug collections and cash payments.
He was called 'The Gaffer' while secret codewords were also used including 'Paper' for cash and 'TNT' for cocaine.
In the last message recovered, a clearly frustrated Kavanagh tells Vickery: "We're having nothing to do wit dis liar after dis. D hole week just lies lies and more lies...".
It was also discovered that he was in contact with Nikolaj Wall, a German national who oversaw the drug operation on mainland Europe for the gang. Wall is currently in custody in Germany.
The inner workings of the gang's drug network were laid bare in Ipswich Crown Court with details outlined of their transport routes, how they disguised their shipments, and the codenames they used to operate under the radar.
They had connections in seven countries, but their operation was foiled when €4m worth of drugs were found hidden in a tarmac remover machine at the port of Dover.
NCA identified 22 further importations and it was inferred that, between October 2016 and October 2017, the crime group imported between 600kg and 800kg of cannabis, and 292kg of cocaine, with a maximum total street value of nearly £30 million (€36m).
Another gang key member was a mysterious Polish man living in Dublin, nicknamed 'Ziggy', who organised GPS trackers and owned a business in Barcelona where drug payments were sent to.
Also involved was Irish man Martin Byrne who helped with the unloading of the drugs and loading the cash.
DNA also connected him to a firearm seized at the gang's warehouse but he passed away from lung cancer in 2018.
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