Thursday, 7 December 2000

Journalist 'was killed to save drugs empire'

Shooting plan was dictated from foreign hideaway, court told
Vikram Dodd in Dublin
The Guardian, Thursday 7 December 2000 08.38 GMT
The assassination of investigative journalist Veronica Guerin was ordered by an Irish drugs baron, who from abroad directed members of his gang to execute her, a Dublin court heard yesterday.
John Gilligan, 48, denies murder and 15 counts of smuggling drugs and firearms into Ireland between 1994 and 1996.
The special criminal court in Dublin, which sits without a jury, heard that Gilligan ordered the hit as he was facing the threat of jail because of a case brought against him by Ms Guerin.
She had pressed assault charges against him after she had confronted him at his home, and Gilligan feared a jail sentence would threaten his lucrative drugs empire, the prosecution alleged.
The court also heard evidence that Gilligan phoned Ms Guerin and threatened to murder her, the day after she had "doorstepped" him.
The murder of Ms Guerin, married with one young son, led to one of the biggest criminal investigations in Ireland to hunt down the killers.
Ms Guerin, 37, was crime correspondent of the Sunday Independent newspaper and had won awards for her work exposing criminals in the Irish Republic.
She was shot dead on June 26, 1996, on the Naas road in Dublin, when a man on a motorcycle fired six bullets from a .357 Magnum revolver into her body.
Opening the prosecution case, Peter Charleton said Gilligan was the "controlling mind" behind the assassination. "He committed this offence through his agents, his agents being members of a gang under his control who all of the while acted according to his will."
Mr Charleton said Gilligan commanded the gang, which operated in secrecy with "a cloak of terror" using "vicious and violent threats" against anyone who threatened his will, including Ms Guerin.
The prosecution alleged that Gilligan had smuggled hundreds of kilograms of cannabis into Ireland, and laundered the proceeds through Amsterdam.
Mr Charleton said: "John Gilligan had Veronica Guerin killed in order to protect his drugs empire and to ensure he did not go to jail at a time when he was making a great deal of money and perhaps his absence would have resulted in damage to that empire."
The prosecution said that Gilligan's "motive and intention" towards Ms Guerin was made clear the day before her murder.
Gilligan went to court for a scheduled hearing of the assault charge brought by the re porter. On his way in to court, Gilligan said to two Garda officers: "She is a f-ing stupid beeatch, this case will never get off the ground."
Later that same day Gilligan left Ireland, flying from Dublin to Amsterdam, but called his gang members to check on the progress of the murder plot. "John Gilligan deliberately left the jurisdiction, having put in place the elements for Veronica Guerin to be murdered, and from abroad directed that murder," Mr Charleton alleged.
On the day of the murder, Gilligan is alleged to have called Russell Warren, who will testify against him, from Amsterdam. Warren kept Ms Guerin under surveillance as she went to a court hearing after she had been stopped for speeding.
After her case, Ms Guerin drove back towards central Dublin with Gilligan's gang keeping her under surveillance.
Brian Meehan, convicted at a previous trial of Ms Guerin's murder, drove a Kawasaki motorcycle with the gunman, who was not named in court, riding as a pillion passenger.
Ms Guerin's car had stopped at traffic lights at the junction of Naas road and Boot road. At 12.54pm Ms Guerin made a call to a Garda officer on her mobile, which was taped.
The recording shows that Ms Guerin's conversation was in terrupted mid-sentence by a bang, with the prosecution saying she was shot at 12.55pm.
Felix McEnroy, a barrister, testified that on September 15, 1995, Gilligan phoned Ms Guerin while she was with him and threatened to shoot her, and to kidnap and rape her young son, Cahal.
Mr McEnroy had previously represented Gilligan in the late 1980s. He told the court that the day after Gilligan is alleged to have assaulted Ms Guerin, the reporter went to his office. Mr Mc Enroy said: "She had a bruising or swelling over her left eye."
He said Ms Guerin received a call on one of her two mobiles, during which she became afraid.
Mr Mc Enroy said he was basing his testimony on what he could hear of the call and on what Ms Guerin told him of its contents.
He said he heard abuse and then the caller said: "This is John Gilligan".
The call continued and then Mr McEnroy said he heard the voice alleged to be Gilligan say: "If you do one thing on me, or if you write about me, I will kidnap your son and ride him. I will shoot you, do you understand what I am saying?"
Mr McEnroy said he advised Ms Guerin to end the call and make a statement to police.
The trial continues.

Sunday, 4 June 2000

Row over debt led to killing of Irishman in Amsterdam

Irish Independent

By CONOR SWEENEY in Amsterdam

Sunday June 04 2000
A ROW over an outstanding debt is believed to have led to the death of one of Ireland's most notorious underworld figures, Derek ``Maradona'' Dunne, 33, who was gunned down after a row in his Amsterdam home. He was found outside his apartment after a gunfight between gangsters of different nationalities broke out at the apartment. Also found were two other gangsters an Englishman who was shot and ``critically'' wounded lay just inside the entrance to the apartment, and a Dutchman, 25, appeared to have been handcuffed and shot but was less seriously injured.
Both of the injured men have been arrested by police.
Dunne, a former League of Ireland soccer player, was at his home with his common-law wife Rachel Mitchell, daughter of George Mitchell, who is known as the Penguin. Dunne's five-year-old daughter was also in the house at the time of the attack. Yesterday, her bicycle could be seen in the blood-splattered hallway.
Just before midnight, Rachel answered the door to three men a Yugoslav, an Englishman and a Dutchman. They had apparently come to discuss money owed to the Yugoslav by Dunne. During the encounter Rachel Mitchell started screaming and shots were fired. Dunne is believed to have hit two of the men who called to the house but was himself fatally wounded. The man who was handcuffed is thought to have been an associate of Dunne's who was forced to lead the Yugoslav and Englishman to Dunne's house.
Derek Dunne was later found shot dead in the street four feet from his home. The Englishman was lying with bullet wounds to his head and back and is in a critical condition in hospital. The Dutch national was later found in the street handcuffed and dazed by Dutch police.
Rachel Mitchell was uninjured but was last night in hospital suffering from shock.
Police said at least two different handguns were used in the gunfight. The shooting happened in the working-class Amsterdam suburb of Osdorp.

The shooting comes just six weeks after three young Irishmen were found murdered in an apartment in Scheveningen outside The Hague, in what investigators believe were drug-related killings.

Derek ``Maradona'' Dunne was a former League of Ireland player and played in the first team for St Patrick's Athletic during the late Eighties and early Nineties.

He played for three seasons under Brian Kerr, the present Irish under-18s manager and former manager of St Patrick's Athletic. ``He trained hard and played hard and he was very disciplined,'' Brian Kerr told the Sunday Independent. ``I remember it was a surprise to everyone when allegations about drug smuggling were first made against him. He was a very dedicated player. People didn't know what was going on, if it is true,'' he said.

Dunne grew up in Dublin's north inner city and in 1996 a prosecution case in Liverpool against the soccer star and his brother David for the importation of heroin from Liverpool to Dublin in July 1994 and March 1995 collapsed.

Derek Dunne has been linked for several years in Garda intelligence files to George Mitchell, who is known as the Penguin. Mitchell is reputed to be within the senior ranks of the international drugs trade in Europe.

Garda sources told the Sunday Independent that Dunne was one of Mitchell's key lieutenants.

Up to five years ago, Derek Dunne lived in the north inner city of Dublin. Born in Alfie Byrne House on Grenville Street, he was last in Ireland for the funeral of his father, who died of cancer last year.

However, after a vicious row with another gangster, Derek Dunne was told to leave the country or he would be shot. He first made his base in Liverpool and three years ago he moved to take up residence in Holland.

George Mitchell has been based in Amsterdam since the shooting of Veronica Guerin. In March 1998, he was arrested by Dutch police and charged with a £5m computer supplies robbery.

Mitchell previously lived at The Coppices in Palmerstown on Dublin's west side with his two sons, aged 27 and 25. Both his sons now live in Amsterdam.

During his court appearances in Holland, Mitchell described himself as a respectable businessman involved in import-export.

The Penguin's gang is made up of Irish, Dutch and East European criminal associates.

The gang also has close ties with Middle Eastern and South American drug-trafficking gangs. The gang are the key suppliers for cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy into the British and Irish markets.

George Mitchell is also a key broker for other gangs operating in Ireland, Britain and Europe. Its sphere of operation, according to Garda sources, includes Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Germany, Turkey and Russia.

Apart from drug trafficking, George Mitchell and his associates are involved in illegal firearms trading, prostitution and money laundering.

It is estimated that the Penguin, with other key cohorts including Derek Dunne, generates a profit of £1m per week.

At this stage there is no reason to link the shooting to the brutal murder of three Irishmen in Scheveningen outside The Hague just over a month ago.

- CONOR SWEENEY in Amsterdam

Irish drug baron shot dead

Henry McDonald
The Observer, Sunday 4 June 2000
Derek Dunne, one of Ireland's biggest heroin traffickers, has been shot dead in Holland.
The body of the 33-year-old from north Dublin was discovered outside his apartment in the town of Singerstrat, near Amsterdam, yesterday. A second man, an ex- soldier from Dublin, was found critically injured in the apartment, while a third was found in handcuffs.
Dutch police say several people were seen leaving the scene in a car, later found burnt out. The shooting is reportedly linked to a row among rival gangs. Dunne left Ireland four years ago after a fall-out with rival criminals. The man shot in his apartment is an associate of John Gilligan, the Dublin criminal charged in connection with the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin. The man shot in Dunne's apartment is wanted for questioning about her murder.
Last month three young Irishmen were tortured and mutilated before being shot dead in a flat at Scheveningen outside The Hague.
That murder was linked to another major Dublin heroin lord who had lost two major shipments of drugs and guns the previous year.

Monday, 29 May 2000

Godfathers of crime: a 13-gang syndicate

irish independent


Monday May 29 2000
THIRTEEN gangs control organised crime in the State, according to a major security report to be placed before a meeting of EU justice and home...

THIRTEEN gangs control organised crime in the State, according to a major security report to be placed before a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in Brussels today.

The report reveals how seven of the crime groups are using legitimate enterprises such as a coal retailing business, a construction firm, a wholesale outfit, pubs, shops and gambling as a front to launder their huge profits from lawbreaking.

And it says that the continued buoyancy of the economy generally and the property market in particular has provided the godfathers of crime with increased opportunities to launder the multi-million pound cash gains from drug trafficking, armed robbery and computer component theft.

But it concludes that the measures adopted by the Government and the Gardai over the past four years to combat organised crime have significantly tipped the scales against the big gang bosses.

The study of organised crime in all EU member states has been drawn up for today's meeting, which is being attended by Justice Minister John O'Donoghue whose policies receive a favourable mention in the report.

The report discloses that about 62pc of all crime gangs are located in Dublin while another 13pc are based in the Border regions. Three-fifths of the gangs have established contacts outside Ireland, mainly because of the activities of a small number of Irish criminals now involved in drug trafficking in Europe and the international network set up to dispose of stolen computer components.

The report estimates that a total of 1,202 disclosures of suspicious financial transactions with a value in excess of £125m were reported in 1998. About half were associated with organised crime.

But despite their sophistication and contacts, there was no evidence that any of the groups had influence over the judicial, executive or legislative arms of the State.

Drug-related crimes and armed robberies were the main activities of the big gangs and the volume of drugs seized in the south west in the past had indicated that Ireland had operated as a transit country. One particular cocaine seizure in 1998 was given as an example.

The report pointed out that some groups based in Dublin and the north east were heavily involved in smuggling cigarettes with one gang operating on an international basis and linked to the supply of cigarettes to a range of member States.

It is significant, according to the report, that gambling, prostitution and child pornography in Ireland does not occur in the organised crime sector.

And it highlights the impact of the Criminal Assets Bureau and the introduction of a witness security programme in playing important roles in the efforts to combat organised crime.


Saturday, 6 May 2000

Drugs link in triple murder at seaside

Irish Republic in shock after bodies of young men thought to be small-time dealers found tortured, butchered and burned in Dutch flat
John Mullin Ireland correspondent
The Guardian, Saturday 6 May 2000 02.02 BST
Article history
Police in the Netherlands were last night still struggling formally to identify three young Irishmen butchered in an expensive apartment near the Hague in an apparently drug-related massacre.
The Irish Republic, in the grip of a bloody turf war over the burgeoning drugs trade, is in shock. Although speculation suggests that the men, at most small-scale dealers, fell foul of Colombian or eastern European drugs gangs, fears are growing that Irish drugs barons are responsible.
The men, all in their 20s and from the west of Ireland, were tortured and then shot. Their bodies were piled in the bathroom, doused in petrol and set on fire to conceal evidence.
Two bodies were dismembered with knives. One is believed to have contained cavity filler, used to fill gaps between walls and window frames.
A police source said: "The victims were badly burned. They were mutilated and unrecognisable."
Detectives in the Netherlands are embarrassed at their failure at first to realise that the men were murdered rather than victims of a blaze early last Saturday in the fifth floor flat at Scheveningen, a well-heeled seaside resort five miles from the capital. They fear they have missed vital evidence.
Dental records and blood samples from relatives were among material passed to Dutch police yesterday. But it might be Monday before they can officially confirm the victims' identities.
They found amphetamines and a tablet-pressing machine in the flat. They believe two of the men were manufacturing amphetamines and ecstasy. The third was visiting his elder brother on holiday.
One of the victims was known to the garda national drugs unit. But detectives are working on the theory that they were small dealers who got out of their depth.
The Netherlands is the vital source of supply of most drugs to the republic. Gardai and Dutch police have conducted 16 operations against drugs criminals in both countries in the past six months.
One theory yesterday was that the two men, to boost their own operations, passed information to gardai about rivals' shipments. There were two major interceptions recently.
Among five passports found in the charred remains of apartment 1058 were those of the three victims. Although convinced of their identities, Dutch police have not formally named them.
Damien Monaghan, 25, was the eldest of 11 children from a housing estate in Cloughleigh, Co Clare. He moved to the Netherlands six years ago, and rented the two-bedroom flat last year. It cost £600 a month, expensive by Dutch standards.
Monaghan lived with Vincent Costello, 29, from Bansha, near Cahir in Co Tipperary. Costello had been in the Netherlands for two years but returned home regularly.
His younger brother Morgan, 22, who worked in a meat plant at Cahir, was visiting him on a week's holiday. His parents and three sisters had expected him home on Tuesday.
Dutch police are also desperate to trace Vanessa Cope, 27, from Newry, Co Down, and are liaising with the RUC as well as garda. Her British passport was with the four Irish passports found, and they fear she too has been murdered.
But one of the passports, that of John Nunan, 27, from Fermoy, Co Cork, turned out to be stolen. Mr Nunan, who reported it missing two years ago, was eliminated after speaking to gardai on Thursday.
The three executions bring the republic's drug-related murder toll to 20 in as many months. Republican paramilitaries have been involved in several of the killings, most recently last weekend.
The latest tally compares with 11 drug-related murders in the two years before the shooting of the journalist Veronica Guerin in June 1996. Gangs were then trying to expand their empires after the assassination in August 1994 of the crime boss Martin Cahill.
The killings stopped when tough legislation was passed after Ms Guerin's death. Armed with new powers, garda broke up the drugs gang she had been investigating. It has big operations in Amsterdam.
But the officers' success left a power vacuum. Would-be barons are vying again to take over parts of the highly lucrative trade, sparking violent confrontations.
Irish detectives say some murders are related to turf wars. Other victims are accused of double-crosses.
Two of the most horrific recent killings were of Darren Carey, 20, and Patrick Murray, 19, minor criminals working as couriers. They had flown to Amsterdam to collect £30,000 worth of heroin, but Murray was arrested on his way home last November.
Police seized the drugs. Their boss, a notorious figure in Dublin's underworld, was furious. Murray was kidnapped, stripped, tortured and shot in the back of the head. Carey was also killed. Their bodies were found in the Grand Canal, near Newcastle, Co Dublin, three months ago.
Paramilitary murders are mostly seen as "punishment" attacks, cracking down on drugs use, a policy which has won republicans strong support in many badly afflicted inner-city areas. But some dealers are thought to be executed over a failure to hand over a cut of their takings.
The Irish National Liberation Army last Saturday shot dead Pat Neville, 31, a father of six, in Dublin to avenge the machete murder of its volunteer Patrick Campbell, 22, who died in the city last October after a brutal fight with a drugs gang. The INLA claimed that it had been seeking to stamp out drugs use, but detectives instead suggested the fight began after a row over money.
The IRA is suspected of killing Tommy Byrne, 41, a drugs dealer, six days ago, shooting him in the head as he drank outside a Dublin pub. But it appears he was murdered for fighting with the IRA's officer commanding in Dublin, rather than to make an example of him over his criminal activities.
The IRA last year killed two Northern Ireland drugs barons, Brendan Fegan, 24, and Paul Downey, 37. They were big ecstasy dealers. The Dutch police, the Garda and the RUC, aided by Interpol, are expected to investigate any links between them and the men murdered in Scheveningen.