Sunday, 8 December 2002

Crime lords go free as witnesses face threats of violence

By Jim Cusack

Sunday December 08 2002
Over 30 murders directly linked to organised crime in Dublin over the past five years remain unsolved, writes Jim Cusack

IT IS becoming almost impossible to get good witnesses to testify against figures involved in organised crime in Dublin and to a lesser extent Limerick as a result of increasing fear of reprisal, according to senior detectives.

Dublin-based gangs appear to have succeeded in striking sufficient fear into people so that they are no longer prepared to given evidence.

As a result, virtually every gangland execution in recent years has gone unsolved and detectives now admit that the chance of gaining convictions in these cases has become increasingly slim.

The State witness protection scheme is extremely limited it only applies to three witnesses in the Veronica Guerin case and a fourth man who was a Real IRA informant for the garda and has a budget of around €1 million annually.

Detectives admit it is now virtually impossible to get associates or even members of the public to testify in gangland murder cases.

One of the last people to give evidence against organised criminals was a young south Dublin woman who testified against a man earlier this year. The witness gave evidence about a serious assault, despite repeated threats to her life and the life of her partner.

She was not afforded garda protection and as a result of the threats was forced to move home and virtually go on the run, moving from one B&B to another. The experience cause her desperate strain and for a while wrecked the couple's relationship.

The example of this woman's experience has not helped to encourage others to come forward as witnesses.

It is known that in another case murder charges were withdrawn when a south Dublin man decided against testifying against a major criminal figure.

There are now over 30 unsolved gangland murders in Dublin since mid-1997. Detectives admit that there is little chance that any of the murders will come to trial because of lack of evidence.

The lack of successful prosecutions has also encouraged gangs to resort to violence to settle disputes and gardai say they expect more killings.

There are serious unresolved disputes involving gangs in Ronanstown, Ballyfermot and Drimnagh. All those involved are men in their twenties who are running heroin and cocaine.

The Dublin West Division has 11 unsolved murders and Dublin South Division has seven in the past 18 months. The majority of the suspects are members of, or associated with, drugs gangs.

Most of the drug gang members are themselves users of cocaine and gardai say this is fuelling the violence. It also explains why many of the gun attacks are unsuccessful as the young gunmen are heavily under the influence of drugs, which tends to make them excitable and jittery.

Garda successes have been limited to making arrests where the main suspects are caught red-handed for offences including possession of firearms or drugs. Three gang leaders aged in their mid-twenties have been imprisoned this year and this has led to a reduction in the amount of serious violence.

The Dublin gangs also appear to have becoming increasingly sharp about how they manage their finances in order to avoid seizure of their cash and property.

The introduction of the Criminal Assets Bureau has caused the main criminal figures to leave Ireland. But gardai say these figures are still the main source of drugs being smuggled back into Ireland.

The Criminal Assets Bureau has also fewer than 30 detectives and is concentrating its efforts on targeting figures who have made large sums of money from criminal activity.

This year, the Bureau has asked detective units around Dublin to begin supplying it with information about "secondary level" criminals and a number of cases have been mounted against drug dealers who have tangible assets.

The older criminals living abroad are dealing with old associates who have stayed at home as their points of contact. The Dublin criminals in early middle age are believed to be working on a commission basis and have appointed young deputies to carry out the distribution work.

The drugs business is booming. A recent criminal intelligence report to senior gardai stated that the "client base" for illegal drugs in Dublin has probably reached its highest-ever levels. The rise in cocaine abuse has been the most significant factor in the rise in illicit earnings from drug trafficking.

Garda report that it is being sold in very large quantities in Dublin pubs and clubs. Heroin is still highly profitable and Dublin detectives say that a credit system is now operating in the city whereby addicts are becoming increasingly indebted to traffickers which is increasing the pressure on addicts to target and begin selling heroin to new users.

This system even reaches into prisons where the gangs are supplying addicts on a credit basis in return for repayment or services on their release. The use of the credit system also reduces the traffickers' cash flow which might otherwise have been targeted by the garda. Senior detectives say the Dublin gangs have also begun avoiding attempts to launder cash or even buy property with their earnings.

Instead they are moving their cash to either Amsterdam or Spain where it is suspected it is being invested in property or other investments. CAB would be unable to seize property assets in other EU countries which do not have similar legislation.

Garda sources say that while there is co-operation between EU police forces in respect of identified drugs smuggling operations, there is little that can be done about mounting surveillance on Irish criminals living in countries such as The Netherlands or Spain so long as they appear to be behaving themselves.

- Jim Cusack

Sunday, 25 August 2002

Gardai fear gangs are preparing for turf war

Gardai fear gangs are preparing for turf war


Sunday August 25 2002
Recent drug busts point to a looming battle between rival gangs

A BLACK rope and a chain attempt to block the entrance of the now closed Slade Valley Equestrian Centre in the heart of the Dublin Mountains. Behind the rope is the frightening reminder that the drug business is booming and that there are many unknown distribution centres just like this one around our city dealing in drugs that are killing our youth.

This is not the first time an equestrian centre has been linked to drugs Jessbrook Equestrian Centre was home to John Gilligan , convicted drug dealer who was acquitted of the murder of Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin in June 1996. There is no connection between Gilligan and Slade. Furthermore, Slade Centre (unlike Jessbrook) is only leased and Slade Valley Equestrian Centre is just a business name.

In 1996 Gilligan was found to have imported 20,000 kilos of cannabis during a 30-month period.

A garda who worked closely with the Lucan Team that investigated Veronica's murder said this week that their work was now being lost as the drug barons were re-emerging bigger, cleverer and more ruthless than before. "The investigation team at Lucan smashed the major gangs and ran the main players out of the country. Now the resources are not being targeted at drugs and these gangs, as was the case in 1996 and 1997. The only way to beat the barons is to set up a task force and give them whatever resources are required to beat them. We did it before and we can do it again."

He pointed out that the barons have learned from Gilligan's mistakes and are more careful hiding their money and moving it out of the country.

The business name certificate for the Slade Valley Equestrian Centre (registration number 216189) shows one of the owners as Ray Molloy with an address at Redgap Slade Valley Equestrian Centre, Rathcoole, Co Dublin. The business is described as a 'Livery Service'. The business was registered on March 20, 2002. It appeared to be trading well. It stabled up to 30 horses and was generating an income of about €6000 per week. They also traded in jump horses and some listed on price lists in the house were in the €50,000 price bracket. The business came to a sudden halt on Monday of last week when gardai raided the premises and found 150 kilos of cannabis. The area was sealed off and the following day a detailed search of the premises revealed bunkers containing a further 250 kilos of cannabis along with a quantity of cocaine.

Now, each day a helper comes to feed the horses. One gentleman who came to exercise his horse on Wednesday last was horrified to find garda tape sealing off the area and was shocked to learn from a garda at the entrance that this was a major drug distribution centre. He stared in disbelief as numerous gardai with pitchforks searched the 20-acre site.

Three people were arrested and questioned in relation to the drug find. The centre manager Ray Molloy was charged with possession of drugs for the purpose of supply last week. He was remanded in custody and was granted free legal aid.

His solicitor did not seek bail but did request the court order that his client be placed under observation while in Mountjoy. The court granted his request.

Molloy, a 30-year-old former doorman, was living with his partner at the centre. They lived in the Equestrian Centre in four rooms which had been converted into living quarters. They are expecting their first child shortly.

Informed sources estimate that the market has increased threefold since the mid-Nineties and gangs are competing to supply the ever-growing demand.

The search of the centre concluded on Thursday and one garda involved in the operation told the Sunday Independent: "This operation has been dealt a major blow." However, he conceded that the dealers would recover in a matter of weeks the cost of the seizure, which is substantially smaller than the reported street value.

Cannabis with a street value of €5m was recovered at the centre. This was not the only loss the gang suffered. On Saturday of last week a garda team, comprising five local units and the national drugs squad, carried out two lightning raids which led detectives to the centre at Slade Valley in Rathcoole Gardai, while delighted at the discovery, admit that the major players in this gang may not be convicted. It is believed the supplier is a former criminal who refused to leave Mountjoy on early release so that he could complete a degree course at the taxpayers' expense. He has set himself up in Amsterdam supplying the gang which controls the cannabis and cocaine market on Dublin's Northside.

He is also supplying the gang that has taken over from convicted drug dealer Christy Kane from Limerick. This notorious criminal from a well-known family was found guilty of possessing over €1m worth of cannabis last year. Kane is the criminal who told gardai that if they left him alone dealing cannabis then he would keep heroin out of an area known as the Island in Limerick. Associates of Kane's are believed to have continued the business that Kane built.

The increase in the number of seizures has led to increased friction among gangs who are convinced that they are being turned in by competitors who wish to increase their hold on the Irish market. The amount of arms that have been recently discovered confirms that many gangs are importing arms with their drug shipments. This was the same modus operandi that was used by Gilligan.

In the year before Gilligan's arrest there were close on a dozen gangland murders in Dublin alone and there are now fears that another gang war will break out.