By Eugene Hoganand Conor Sweeney
Thursday November 17 2005
THE 'grand plan' of the Mid-West-based drugs cartel supplied by Jim 'Chaser' O'Brien was to distribute drugs throughout Ireland.
The Irish Independent has learned that O'Brien's drugs cartel was preparing to flood the market with cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis and heroin as a result of the huge supply chain he had tapped into in South America, North Africa and Afghanistan.
Senior Garda sources last night said that in the last three years the Mid-West cartel had developed a huge network of distributors throughout Ireland and was already dominating the supply into the West and down the seaboard into Cork and Waterford.
It is understood that the cartel hierarchy had also developed links with drug gangs in the North, on both the loyalist and republican side of the divide.
"The reality is that this gang, in business terms, had its own grand plan. It wanted to be the sole supplier outside of Dublin that would cater for the rest of Ireland and it had made significant inroads in that regard," said a well-placed garda source.
O'Brien was central to that grand plan but the cartel also has another of its key figures doing its bidding in Spain, working out of the coastal resort of Malaga. He is a Limerick man in his late 30s and was described last night as another vital link in the chain.
Meanwhile, O'Brien (41), who has charges for a minor drug offence here, could face a lengthy remand in a Belgian prison as the case against him is prepared, it emerged last night.
He is currently being held in an Antwerp jail after his arrest three weeks ago. Since his arrest, he has been formally charged in connection with drug dealing, confirmed the spokeswoman for the Antwerp city public prosecutor, Dominique Reynders.
"I can confirm there is an ongoing investigation of Mr O' Brien, who is also called the 'Chaser'. He has been arrested and is being kept in detention in an Antwerp city prison," she said.
She confirmed that his arrest followed international co-operation involving the authorities in Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands.
At this early stage in the investigation, it was impossible to know whether the final case would involve serious charges or not, she said.
O'Brien will appear before a court tribunal at the end of this month, when a further remand may be considered.
"He can be kept in detention for a long period and he can be brought before the tribunal every month," the spokeswoman said, adding: "I hope there will be developments."
Belgian authorities are remaining tight-lipped about the investigation because of the ongoing nature of the international probe.
- Eugene Hoganand Conor Sweeney