“His organisation was able to organise, import and distribute drugs worth many millions of pounds,” the elite police unit claims.
The capture of Daniel Kinahan’s top operator and the number two in the cartel, has been proudly named by the agency as among their biggest coups of the last year.
As part of their #Countdownto2023, the agency said they would be looking back “on a few of our major operational successes of 2022”.
In a Facebook post alongside a video showing Kavanagh being arrested, they wrote: “In March, a man who ran the UK arm of a major international organised crime group was jailed for 21 years for orchestrating multi-million pound drug shipments.
“Thomas Kavanagh was a high-ranking member of the Kinahan cartel - an Irish network involved in drugs supply, firearms and money laundering.
“He was arrested by the NCA after arriving into Birmingham Airport in 2019. It came after the NCA were able to link his gang to numerous importations of drugs and weapons, hidden inside industrial machinery and shipped to sites in the West Midlands.”
The post reveals how Kavanagh ran his empire “from a fortified mansion, complete with reinforced doors and bulletproof glass in Staffordshire”.
“When the NCA raided the house they found weapons and bundles of cash stuffed in bags, drawers and even down the back of sofa cushions.
“His organisation was able to organise, import and distribute drugs worth many millions of pounds; it was dismantled after a six-year investigation by the NCA. These men considered themselves to be untouchable, but we were able to prove that this was not the case.”
The NCA said the investigation involved close co-operation with the gardai and the Crown Prosecution Service.
‘Bomber’ was once the most powerful crime lords in Ireland and he controlled the UK distribution of Daniel Kinahan’s drugs.
A search in Dublin in January 2017 marked the beginning of the end for his empire, which used a network of lieutenant money launderers without criminal conviction and seemingly ordinary companies.
Kavanagh (54), who was arrested in England in January 2019, was sentenced to 21 years in jail last March at Ipswich Crown Court.
His conviction on drugs and money-laundering charges was directly linked to a fall in Ireland’s gangland murder rate by the nation’s top officer fighting organised crime.
Detective Chief Superintendent Seamus Boland said the conviction of Kavanagh was the most significant in his 33-year policing career.
At the time, Kavanagh was described by Britain’s National Crime Agency as “at the head” of the Kinahan cartel and responsible for smuggling cocaine and cannabis inside items of machinery into the UK and Ireland.
In a documentary about Kavanagh screened last week, Mr Boland says: “In my career, Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh is the most significant conviction I’ve seen.
“When I was talking to National Crime Agency colleagues in the early days of the investigation, I was highlighting to them it was our assessment that Thomas Kavanagh and his group being brought to justice could impact the threat level in this jurisdiction and the number of murders in this jurisdiction.
“I don’t think it is by pure chance that for the last number of years the level of organised crime murders has dropped dramatically.”
Kavanagh, a brother-in-law of David Byrne, who was shot dead in the Regency Hotel, Dublin, in February 2016, has been a senior figure in organised crime for decades.
“Thomas Kavanagh was well-known to the gardaí at that point in time and I think it was obvious to anybody that watched the aftermath of the Regency Hotel attack and the funeral of David Byrne that he held a very prominent position where a message was clearly being given that he was in charge of the organisation,” Mr Boland says.
“Our investigations identified Thomas Kavanagh having some very significant meetings in the aftermath.
“Some of the people he was meeting were some of the people who were subsequently convicted of serious criminal activity surrounding targeting people for murder in the course of the Kinahan-Hutch feud.
“So Thomas Kavanagh absolutely was a person of critical importance in the course of that feud.”
In 2017, a consignment of cannabis and other drugs was found in a modified item of machinery in Dover. Further searches uncovered tracker devices, codes and encrypted phones that all pointed to a man called ‘The Gaffer’ at the top of a €36m drug empire.
Kavanagh was first arrested at Birmingham airport in January 2019 as he returned from a family holiday in Mexico and was later jailed for the possession of a stun gun. In custody, he was charged with the conspiracy and laundering offences.
We recently revealed how anti-gangland cops seized an Aladdin’s Cave of designer goods worth more than €500k after they burst into Kavanagh’s gated mansion in Birmingham.
The stunning haul included 100 pairs of designer heels; 120 handbags; 36 pairs of Armani jeans; lines of Hugo Boss suits; closets full of Canada Goose and Moncler jackets; and drawers full of expensive watches and jewellery.
The clothing and jewellery alone is estimated to have been worth Stg£500,000 and is one of the largest ever seizures of personal items nabbed from a domestic home in a National Crime Agency investigation.
Cash in the region of £40,000 was also found stashed around the house, stuffed into the back of the sofa and in a variety of Moschino, Gucci and Chanel handbags.
Investigators in the UK are also sifting through receipted purchases believed to be worth hundreds of thousands and recorded on high-end designer store cards where points were saved for discounts and access to services like personal shoppers.
The stash will form a small portion of the National Crime Agency (NCA) Proceeds of Crime investigation against Kavanagh which follows the sensational takedown of his organisation earlier this year.
The Virgin Media documentary, Fall of Bomber Kavanagh followed the trail of paper from a premises in Greenogue Industrial Estate, Rathcoole, Co Dublin – raided in 2017 – all the way to the UK midlands and to ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh’s door.
The premises were targeted after the funeral of David Byrne when Kavanagh featured so prominently in a ‘Godfather’ role.
Deputy Director Matt Horne, from the NCA, describes how UK police worked with their Irish counterparts – using documents seized from Greenogue – that led to a massive drug seizure in Dover and to senior members of his gang. He describes how a tracker device found with the drugs in Dover led officers to probe countless other drug shipments
He said: “Clearly an investigation like this is not just about the offending and the drug trafficking; we are also interested in following the money and stripping them of their ill-gotten gains.
“So we are now doing a financial investigation into what proceeds of crime this group have acquired so we can take that into the court and seek it to be recovered for the public purse.”
Kavanagh was sentenced in March to 21 years in prison, along with his co-conspirators Gary Vickery and Daniel Canning.