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.