Wednesday, 26 May 1999

£5m Dutch heist sentence cut for alleged crime boss

Irish Independent


Wednesday May 26 1999
ALLEGED Dublin drugs baron and crime boss George Mitchell, jailed in the Netherlands for his involvement in a £5m computer parts scam, has had his prison sentence cut by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal. ALLEGED Dublin drugs baron and crime boss George Mitchell, jailed in the Netherlands for his involvement in a £5m computer parts scam, has had his prison sentence cut by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal.

Judges yesterday ruled to reduce his two-and-a-half-year sentence imposed by a lower court convicting Mitchell on a robbery count last year to a two-year term.

A defence plea to have the robbery count substituted for the lesser offence of embezzlement was rejected. Under Dutch law prison sentences run concurrently from the date of arrest and a third is remitted for good behaviour. The Irishman is expected now to be freed within months.

Mitchell (49), of Drimnagh, and with an address at Woodfarm Acres, Palmerstown, had told earlier Court hearings that he had set up an import-export business and was doing well bringing in consignments of furniture from Indonesia, which he sold in the Netherlands.

President of Amsterdam Appeal Court Jules Wortel said the Court rejected defence claims that Mitchell had been innocent of involvement in a robbery but instead may have been involved with others in an embezzlement bid. The court was satisfied he was guilty of robbing an Irish lorry laden with computer parts.

Together with the Irish lorry driver and two Dutch nationals, he was tried and convicted of a £5m computer parts robbery from the lorry en-route from the Hewlett Packard plant in Co Kildare to a Dutch customer.

Mitchell, who fled Ireland amid a major Garda crackdown on organised crime after the death of Veronica Guerin in 1996, claimed gardai involved an agent provocateur to try to trap him in Holland.

Dutch undercover police who had been tipped off by their Irish counterparts arrested alleged ringleader Mitchell, the lorry driver and three Dutch members of a gang as the lorry was being stripped of its load near Amsterdam's Schiphol airport in March 1998.

In a second Dutch Court of Appeal ruling Dublin born Derek Dalton (31) who convicted of shooting dead a Dutch criminal had his 15-year sentence reduced to 12 years.

The former barman was found guilty last December of gunning down a Dutch drugs trafficker and crime boss in a settling of old scores.


Saturday, 15 May 1999

Crime lords hit for £millions as CAB score grows

Irish Independent

Crime lords hit for £millions as CAB score grows

By TOM BRADY Security Editor

Saturday May 15 1999
THE State's most lethal anti crime weapon has hit its top underworld targets for more than £27m in asset seizures and tax demands in less than three years. THE State's most lethal anti crime weapon has hit its top underworld targets for more than £27m in asset seizures and tax demands in less than three years.

The hugely successful strike rate of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) emerged last night after it scored two major victories in the courts against the country's number one armed robber and a leading drug trafficking family.

The latest victims of the CAB's relentless campaign against the crime barons were millionaire gang boss Gerry ``The Monk'' Hutch and members of the notorious Felloni family.

The CAB was granted a High Court judgment against Dubliner Hutch for £2,031,551, including an assessment of £782,980 for income tax for nine years.

Hutch was named as the prime suspect for masterminding a £1.7m robbery from a security van at Marino, Dublin, in 1987, and the armed robbery of £3.8m from the Brinks-Allied depot at Clonshaugh, Co Dublin, in January 1996.

The judge refused a stay on the order in the event of an appeal and the head of the CAB, Det Chief Supt Fachtna Murphy, will meet with his legal officer Barry Galvin and other senior members of his staff early next week to determine how the money should be collected. In a separate case, the High Court ordered that assets belonged to heroin dealer Tony Felloni and his son Luigi, should be handed over to a CAB receiver and deposited in one bank account, pending a further court order.

Chief Supt Murphy said last night that the decisions represented significant developments for his bureau in its implementation of the special legislation brought in as part of a Government crime crackdown in the wake of the murders of journalist Veronica Guerin and detective garda Jerry McCabe in the summer of 1996.

He declined to comment on how the court decision would be used against Hutch but it is understood that a number of options remain open to the CAB, including the use of a sheriff's certificate, the weapon deployed in a previous high profile case and bankruptcy procedures.

Meanwhile, it was learned last night that the CAB has now served tax demands on suspects for at least £20m while orders for the seizure of assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act total more than £7m.

The CAB has also secured court approval for a further £700,000 in social welfare savings by moving against suspects illegally claiming dole benefits.

Other top underworld figures confronted by the CAB include the self confessed Guerin murder gang boss, John Gilligan and his alleged associates, Gene Holland, Brian Meehan and John Traynor.

George ``The Penguin'' Mitchell is on a list of alleged drug traffickers hit by the CAB while other high profile figures who have been targetted for tax include bankrupt Matthew Kelly and former Dublin assistant city and county manager George Redmond.

- TOM BRADY Security Editor

Wednesday, 12 May 1999

'Speedy Fegan, you're a dead man'

The last time they tried to kill him, a bulletproof vest saved his skin. So this time they shot him in the face - 15 times. John Mullin on the fast-living drugs baron whose luck ran out, Wednesday 12 May 1999 02.31 BST
He died as he lived, at breakneck pace. He was only 24, yet he was Northern Ireland's most notorious drugs dealer, worth fabulous amounts and determined to spend it. He was betting ludicrous amounts on the pony he had just bought for £10,000 when the inevitable end came. Brendan 'Speedy' Fegan's assailants burst into the busy Hermitage Bar in his home town, Newry, Co Down, at Sunday lunchtime. They wore theatrical moustaches and wigs, and they took no chances.
A murder bid on Fegan three months earlier in south Belfast failed. His bulletproof vest meant he survived with only a chest wound. So they fired 15 shots, and aimed for his face. Much of his brain was left glued to the bar room floor as the 60 lunch-time revellers mysteriously evaporated into the spring sunshine. As his attackers had strolled towards him, one witness said that Fegan leapt to his feet shouting: 'It's the Provies. It's the Provies.' He had earlier told his bodyguard he could go home, and was reduced to trying to protect himself with a bar stool.
The RUC is investigating whether the IRA, which has murdered at least nine drug dealers in five years, was indeed responsible. Or if he was shot dead by a professional hitman. Or if his killer was the rival dealer behind the earlier murder bid on Belfast's Golden Mile. That shooting hardly dented Fegan's bravado. He escaped to England for a week or so. When he returned, he looked up journalist Jim McDowell, northern editor of the Sunday World, which has spent 18 months exposing his activities. They had a furious slanging match in a busy Belfast street with Fegan brandishing his injury at him.
Fegan's assailant had telephoned McDowell the day after the failed shooting. He asked him to pass on a message to Fegan. It was simple enough: 'Tell him I'll do it right next time.' He was also the target of a firebombing attack at one of two houses he had recently bought in Glengormley, just north of Belfast. After learning of an imminent attack, he had just rented it out to a single mother when the petrol bomb came careering through the window. No one was seriously injured.
Fegan, who inherited his love of horses from his late father, Pat, spent Sunday with his brother, Wayne, and his friends from the travelling community. They bet thousands on illegal pony and trap races on the dual carriageway at Warrenpoint, one involving his new asset. Unable to tell who had won a key race, they returned to the Hermitage with video footage taken by one of the travellers. He drove to the pub in his blue sports car, a Mitsubishi Lancer. He had bought it only that week, paying £25,000 in cash for it.
His love of fast driving had brought him his nickname. When one neighbour once admired another of his cars, Fegan replied openly: 'Well, that's the narcotics business for you.' When the video proved inconclusive, Fegan came up with another wheeze to settle the bet. He suggested that they put the entire pot on a sprint between himself and the traveller down Newry's Canal Street.
Welcome to drug dealing Northern Ireland style. Drug abuse is short of the epidemic there is in Dublin and many British cities. But it is getting there, with heroin taking grip for the first time. Eight people have died from overdoses, and seizures are up tenfold in a decade. The presence here of loyalist and republican paramilitaries complicates who gets rich fastest. Both are becoming more involved.
The IRA, for example, killed eight alleged drug dealers during its last ceasefire, which ended after 17 months in February 1996. It murdered under the cover name, Direct Action Against Drugs. The killings were seen as part of the IRA's strategy in both policing its own communities and saving youngsters from the drugs scourge. DAAD also shot dead Fegan's close friend Brendan Campbell, 30, in February last year, seven months into the IRA's current cessation. The murder was one of two which contributed to Sinn Fein's temporary expulsion from the multi-party talks at Stormont.
Campbell had also survived an assassination bid. He too was wearing a bulletproof vest when he was attacked in south Belfast. The same gun, curiously, is thought to have been used again this month in the failed attack on Ulster Freedom Fighters commander Johnny Adair, 33, when he was shot while on pre-release parole. He received a minor head injury when the gun misfired.
Campbell's luck ran out a month after the first attack on his life, when the IRA was tipped off that he was at Plank's restaurant in south Belfast. When he left with his girlfriend to walk to his BMW parked nearby, he was shot several times in the head. There were reasons other than drug dealing why he was killed. He had flouted republican authority in west Belfast, once drunkenly attacking Sinn Fein's Connolly House headquarters with grenades.
Security sources say that many IRA commanders, while publicly cracking down on small-time dealers, are happy enough to turn a blind eye to most drug trading in their areas, so long as the main operators are paying sizeable sums in protection money. The approach differs from area to area.
Loyalists, though, are directly involved. Several leading terrorists, including the late Billy Wright, are believed to have built huge personal fortunes trading in cannabis and ecstasy. Top drugs dealers are involved with paramilitaries on both sides making them valuable sources of information. That had led to clashes between Special Branch, which focuses primarily on terrorism, and the Drugs Squad.
It is believed that Fegan was an informer on both sides of the border. His murder came two days after Garda intercepted £850,000 worth of cannabis bound for Northern Ireland at Balbriggan, Co Dublin, after a high-speed chase. Police were acting on a tip-off. Despite his notoriety, Fegan was never convicted of any offence. His first port of call after he was shot in Belfast in February was, mysteriously, the RUC station in Musgrave Street.
As a teenager, Fegan became lieutenant to a Newry-based dealer Paddy Farrell, said to be worth up to £40m. He is thought to have double-crossed Farrell on a large consignment of cannabis just before Farrell's bizarre murder in September 1997. It let Fegan off the hook and presented him with an opportunity to move in. Farrell, a married father of three, was shot dead by his lover, 29-year-old Lorraine Farrell (no relation) at her mother's home in Drogheda, Co Louth. She was convinced he was returning to his wife, and planning to move with his family to Florida.
After the couple had sx, she blasted Farrell, naked except for a blindfold, with a shotgun before turning the weapon on herself. She had planned his murder and her suicide so well that she had even bought her own grave a couple of days earlier. But whereas Farrell wisely invested his fortune in legitimate businesses like car dealerships, spendthrift Fegan always needed outside financial backing. One theory is that he provoked his investors' ire after losing several large consignments.
He had close links with the drugs gang which murdered Irish reporter Veronica Guerin, 36, shot dead as she sat in her car at traffic lights on the outskirts of Dublin in September 1996. He was questioned about the killing, and released without charge. He was a distributor of cannabis in Northern Ireland, making up to £50,000 a week. He had, though, recently turned to trading in heroin, with Ballymena, the capital of Ian Paisley's north Antrim constituency, suffering an explosion in abuse and linked crime.
He had become increasingly erratic over the past 18 months. He is said to have ordered the murder of Frankie Turley, an armed robber who was shot dead in Newtonabbey, north of Belfast, after he had stolen a photograph of him and supplied it to the Sunday World. Turley, a small-time armed robber, was the fourth man involved in an armed robbery in west Belfast in February 1990 when the SAS summarily shot dead three men. He escaped by pretending to be one of the stunned punters in Sean Graham's bookmakers. He stole the picture from Fegan's flat in Moira, Co Armagh, one of his long list of addresses. It shows Fegan alongside Campbell in the back of a limousine. Both men are smiling, and Fegan's mobile telephone sits on his lap. He was enraged when the picture appeared in the Sunday World.
Fegan gave two of his henchmen £500 worth of ecstasy each, and ordered them to burn down the newspaper's offices in January. The arson attempts failed to stop the paper focusing on him. He was also severely beaten up by a rival drug dealer after sleeping with his girlfriend. The IRA had told Fegan to stay away from Newry several years ago. As a youngster, he had damaged some cars at a Gaelic football match. It is thought he was exiled for a time, but came back after the IRA's first ceasefire began in September 1994.
Republicans deny there were any recent threats. Sinn Fein, quick to point out it cannot speak for the IRA when the subject is arms decommissioning, said there was no IRA involvement in the killing. Sinn Fein councillor Brendan Curran, chairman of Newry and Mourne council, said: 'The IRA is not going to break the ceasefire and collapse the whole agreement over Brendan Fegan. There is absolutely no evidence to link republicans to the killing. He was a well known drug-dealer, and numerous attempts had been made before on his life. It is widely acknowledged he had numerous enemies.' His well-respected mother, Sheila, will bury him today. She had made sure he wanted for nothing, and he had charm and intelligence. But the writing had been on the wall for him for some time. On one gable end in Newry, reads the message: 'Speedy Fegan. You're a Dead Man.'

Monday, 10 May 1999

Top drugs baron dies in a hail of bullets

Irish Independent
Top drugs baron dies in a hail of bullets


Monday May 10 1999
A LEADING drugs baron died in a hail of bullets yesterday as he enjoyed a lunchtime drink. There was speculation that his death had been ordered by rivals. A LEADING drugs baron died in a hail of bullets yesterday as he enjoyed a lunchtime drink. There was speculation that his death had been ordered by rivals.

Around 60 people looked on as two disguised men walked calmly into Newry's Hermitage Bar, produced handguns and singled out Brendan `Speedy' Fegan, then shot him at close range in the head and chest.

Fegan, 24, visiting his home town despite death threats and warnings to stay away, slumped against the counter and is believed to have died instantly. He was pronounced dead at Daisy Hill Hospital shortly after the 1.30pm killing.

A vicious internal gangland feud was last night widely thought to be behind the killing, although Fegan's last words were described as: ``It was the Provies, it was the Provies.''

Eyewitness Sean Paul White said: ``I heard two shots, then people were running out screaming and blood all over them and all I heard was `Speedy's been shot'.

``A friend of mine came out and told me two men in disguise came in and just shot him. Within five minutes the ambulance came and by this time he was dead.''

Despite his youth, Fegan was regarded as a leading figure in lucrative cross-Border drug trafficking operations. He had connections with major Dublin criminals and is thought to have been earning £20,000 a week buying drugs in the Republic and selling them in the North.

The drug dealer's killers wore wigs and moustaches when they walked into the pub. Eye witness accounts vary only 10 have so far come forward in the wake of the shooting but one report said between five and seven shots were fired.

Fegan survived a number of assassination attempts and was shot in the chest recently in Belfast by loyalists. Fearing for his life, he fled to England from the hospital where he was being treated and took to wearing body armour. It is understood the loyalists lost a substantial consignment of drugs recently to the Garda.

But Fegan had many enemies and his links with loyalist drug bandits are seen as a major factor which could have influenced republican connections to assassinate him.

The drug dealer is also thought to have been implicated in the £850,000 drugs haul intercepted by gardai on its way North at Balbriggan last Friday. One theory is that this bungled operation may have cost him is life.

His Dublin gangland connection led to his arrest by gardai investigating the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin. He was questioned particularly about a major drug distribution centre at Greenmount Industrial estate in Dublin's Walkinstown. This was run by Gilligan gang members including Paul Ward, Russell Warren and Charlie Bowden and both drugs and guns were stored there.