gown and out | 

Kinahan cartel gangster Graham ‘The Wig’ Whelan pictured at home for Christmas after early release from Mountjoy

Whelan had been scheduled for release from prison on Saturday, Christmas Eve, but a decision to release him early, on Wednesday morning, was taken for security reasons.

Sunday World

This is senior Kinahan gang member Graham ‘The Wig’ Whelan enjoying his freedom hours after he was released from Mountjoy prison — just in time to celebrate Christmas with his family and loved ones.

Our exclusive images show the convicted drug dealer (40) outside his Dublin home after serving 14 months of an 18-month sentence for money laundering offences, including possession of a €28,000 watch.

Whelan had been scheduled for release from prison on Saturday, Christmas Eve, but a decision to release him early, on Wednesday morning, was taken for security reasons.

Earlier this year, the Sunday World revealed Whelan was visited on a number of occasions by Conor McGregor’s sister Aoife while behind bars after they became close friends following the breakdown of her marriage.

Our latest pictures show Whelan, still in his dressing robe, standing outside his home on Thursday morning — after waking from his first night’s sleep as a free man in more than a year.

Sources have confirmed that gardai were made aware of Whelan’s release in advance,

A self-described ‘dangerous criminal’, Whelan pleaded guilty in July 2021 to participating in the actions of an organised crime gang by laundering money for the group.

He also pleaded guilty to possession of €1,200 in cash and an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak gentleman’s watch, the proceeds of crime, at the Intercontinental Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin, on January 31, 2019.

Whelan further admitted he had paid €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.

At his sentencing in November last year, counsel for Whelan had asked that the sentence begin after Christmas but he was led away to begin his prison term immediately after the State objected.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt noted that Whelan made a number of comments when initially arrested by gardai.

This included him telling them that he got the cash from “up his Swiss roll” and that they could keep it.

He also told detectives “I’m a dangerous criminal” and to “look me up”.

The court heard this was reference to Whelan being jailed for six years over a €1.6m drug seizure at a hotel in Dublin city centre.

The infamous bust, carried out at the Holiday Inn when Whelan was just 17, was seen as the beginning of the Crumlin-Drimnagh feud which led to 16 people being murdered.

The Intercontinental Hotel room bust, for which Whelan has been incarcerated until this week, led to a Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) probe into his affairs and the seizure of €75,000.

Last January, Whelan had the €75,000 confiscated by the State after a judge ruled that the money was the proceeds of crime. Whelan had tried to disguise the money as a legitimate loan from a relative, named in court as John Wilson, to a business venture.

However, Justice Alexander Owens said he believed that the convicted drug dealer was paying it back in cash made from his criminal enterprise.

Whelan had moved back from the UK to Ireland in 2016 to set up a business cleaning wheelie bins for householders, the court heard, and had an ‘investment company’ which had purchased a parcel of unidentified land.

In a judgement read by Justice Owens to the High Court, Whelan was described as a ‘career criminal’ involved in organised crime for a long time.

Garda intelligence, the court heard, listed Whelan as an importer of drugs and an associate of a major crime gang.

Whelan had moved to the UK in 2009 and lived there until 2016.

Documents found during CAB searches following his arrest in January 2019 in a room in the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin suggested that he had property in the UK and had been paying a mortgage, which had been transferred to a vulture fund.

The document was found in Mr Wilson’s property who the judge described as a ‘trusted confidante’ of Whelan.

It was also heard that Whelan was in possession of a drugs ‘tick list’ and an EncroChat phone at the time of his arrest which happened 18 months before Dutch and French police hacked the network and staged massive arrests across Europe.

The judgement detailed the High Court’s belief that Whelan was trying to launder funds from crime through ‘legitimate’ businesses and had borrowed a total of €110,000 from Mr Wilson, who had later paid a builder €34,000 in cash to renovate his home.

The money, Justice Owens believed, was likely payments made to him by Whelan from the proceeds of crime in respect of the ‘loans’ and was a way of washing the dirty money. Whelan had set up his bin cleaning company in 2017, the court heard, and had one vehicle on the road but large amounts of funds had transferred through the business accounts in what Justice Owens said was a ‘cash’ business. Whelan’s explanations with regard to monies when questioned by CAB were ‘unsatisfactory and unbelievable’ the judge said.

He also said that Whelan was ‘vague and unconvincing’ when quizzed about his ‘business dealings.’

‘The Wig’, had been a close associate of Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh for years and left Ireland after new gangland laws came in out of fear he would be targeted.

He had been a key member of the Crumlin/Drimnagh gang that imploded and went to war after the cocaine bust at the Holiday Inn Hotel in 2000.

Both he and his pal Phillip Griffiths received hefty sentences in relation to the €1.6 million seizure.

The Special Criminal Court heard that Whelan had 33 previous convictions along with a conviction for grievous bodily harm relating to a bar brawl in Spain in 2016.

At the time of his sentencing last November, his defence counsel Michael Bowman said Whelan had four children, aged between three and 10, and that he was their primary carer following the death of his partner.

Mr Bowman said Whelan had undergone drug and alcohol counselling and that his priority was the upbringing of his children since the passing of their mother.

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