By TOM BRADY
Monday March 01 1999
GARDAI have smashed the money laundering operation of a gang reputed to be the biggest heroin suppliers to this country. The gang is believed to have been importing heroin worth about £1m a month for the past two years.The massive money spinning racket was masterminded by a young criminal, originally from Ballyfermot in Dublin, after he moved base to Manchester and set up an operation there.
The latest breakthrough for the Gardai came at the weekend with the arrest of a man suspected of taking the proceeds from the monthly shipments across the Border, converting the punts to sterling and then shifting the cash to Manchester.
The arrest followed a joint investigation by the Garda national drugs unit and the Manchester police major crime unit into the gang's activities over the past six months.
BURIED ON LAND
Gardai, led by Det Chief Supt Ted Murphy, moved in on the gang initially last September after keeping a watch for almost a week on a £7m heroin consignment buried on land near Balbriggan in north Dublin.
That seizure led to a major crackdown by the two police forces, culminating in the joint seizure of heroin worth £25m in four hauls here and in Britain and a firearms find in Manchester.
The weekend suspect, a builder in his 50s and originally from Co Mayo, was detained by detectives in Balbriggan and was also questioned about his alleged role in the importation of several heroin shipments.
As a result of the garda seizures, the price of heroin on the streets of the capital has jumped from £10 to £16 a deal because of the shortage of supply for addicts.
Gardai believe that the Ballyfermot criminals had very few links with more established drug trafficking gangs before setting up their headquarters in Manchester but quickly became the main suppliers of heroin to Dublin in the past two years.
Meanwhile in a separate operation at the weekend, detectives from the Garda national drugs unit smashed a cannabis importation route from Britain to Limerick.
A British courier was stopped by detectives at Dublin Airport where he was due to have been met and brought by limousine to Limerick.
As a result of the operation detectives seized cannabis worth about £200,000 on the streets.
* Gardai seized ecstasy tablets and cash in a raid on a flat in the centre of Tullamore early yesterday. Five gardai took possession of 200 ecstasy tablets worth £2,000 in the 3.40am raid. Two men were arrested. A large number of people were in the flat when gardai arrived.
- TOM BRADY