Sunday, 22 May 2005

Big-name expatriate criminals keep drugs flowing into Ireland

Sunday Tribune

John Burke
A CORE of hardened Irish drug criminals based in Holland and Spain have become significant players in the trafficking of drugs to gangs in Dublin and across the state, in particular the supply of cannabis resin and heroin.

Many of these expatriate Irishmen are based overseas after fleeing this jurisdiction following the major crackdown by the criminal assets bureau, customs and the garda national drug unit (GNDU) in the late 1990s.

Among those who are considered to be the main players in providing a link in the supply chain of drugs coming here via continental Europe and Asia is George 'The Penguin' Mitchell, 53, the Ballyfermot-born armed robber who is a suspected member of the gang led by Martin Cahill which carried out the Beit art collection robbery in the 1980s.

It has been claimed that both the British authorities and the IRA are eager to speak to Mitchell if he returns from Amsterdam, where he runs a 20m cannabis and ecstasy operation.

Also considered a main player operating from Amsterdam, 54-year-old Tommy Savage is a close associate of Mitchell and has been connected to a string of gangland hits in the 1990s here, though he has denied involvement in the shooting of ex-INLA man Teasy McDonald in 1992. A former Official IRA member, many of Savage's associates who did not leave the jurisdiction were later shot dead.

Former soldier Mick Weldon, 51, has been sought by gardai since the early 1990s when he fled to South America. He is thought to have his own pilot's licence and frequently travels between Colombia and Spain, where he is believed to operate a major cannabis operation.

Several members of John Gilligan's former drugs gang, including John 'The Coach' Traynor, are also domiciled in Spain, out of the reach of gardai. Traynor has always denied that he ordered the hit on crime reporter Veronica Guerin in 1996 and has denied reports that he is heavily involved in setting up drugs shipments from the Costa del Sol.
May 22, 2005

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