Sunday, 30 April 2006

Sunday Tribune
I'm paying for Gilligan and Dutchy, claims lawyer
Controversial lawyer Giovanni di Stefano says he is "nancially supporting crime bosses JohnGilliganandPatrick Holland
John Burke Crime Correspondent
THE lawyer representing former crime boss John Gilligan has said that he is personally funding the druggang leader's legal case against the State, in a bid to further reduce his sentence for drug possession.

Italian-born lawyer Giovanni di Stefano also said that he has personally given money to support Patrick 'Dutchy' Holland, a key member of the Gilligan gang, who was released from jail earlier this month.

Both men were major criminal figures up to the 1996 murder of crime reporter Veronica Guerin, after which a garda crackdown led to the Gilligan gang's destruction. The lawyer said that 68-year-old Holland is now living with relatives in Dublin and suggested that he would be likely to apply for an old-age pension.

Di Stefano, who himself has been the focus of intense publicity and who is considered to be highly effective in pleading for his clients, said that he has supported Holland financially as he believes the convicted criminal to be a "good man".

"This man [Holland] has been terribly wronged. It is a symptom of the need for society to find a person to blame for Veronica Guerin's murder that he is blamed. . . I know he is a good man, my dog adores him and so does my 10-year-old son, " di Stefano said.

Di Stefano said that Holland had received an offer from an American director who is eager to make a film of the criminal's life, although the lawyer said that neither this nor the option of writing a ghosted biography would be considered until his action against the State had progressed.

Di Stefano said that he filed papers last week with the office of the president, Mary McAleese, seeking a pardon for Holland under the president's constitutional powers.

Gilligan last week gave a rare interview in a bid to sanitise his public image, in which he insisted that he had not ordered the assassination of Veronica Guerin and in which he expressed a desire to see the reporter's killer caught.

Gilligan's comments appeared at length in the Irish edition of a British tabloid. The paper has acknowledged being assisted by di Stefano in organising the interview.

Gilligan dismissed claims made at the Special Criminal Court that barrister Felix McEnroy overheard the drug dealer allegedly threaten Veronica Guerin in a phone call to the reporter on 15 September 1995. Gilligan is alleged to have said that if she wrote anything about him he would kidnap her son and rape him.

In a comment that was met with general disbelief, Gilligan also said that he was "dismayed" by those who say that he is a violent and dangerous man.

"I'm not a violent man and I'm well liked, " he said. At the time that Veronica Guerin was murdered she had given statements to gardai that she had been seriously assaulted by Gilligan.

In November 2003, the Court of Criminal Appeal reduced Gilligan's 28-year prison sentence for drug dealing by eight years. Gilligan, who was jailed in March 2001 on 11 counts of possession of cannabis, had appealed against the severity of the sentence.

However, he must serve a further five years upon completion of this sentence, following his 2002 conviction for threatening to kill two prison officers and their families while in Portlaoise.

Di Stefano will seek to further reduce the jail sentence which Gilligan is serving, arguing that the sentence applied in Gilligan's case was disproportionate to the crime for which he was convicted.

Di Stefano has asked the leading UK expert on sentencing, Dr David Thomas QC, who is also a professor of law at Cambridge, to attend at the sentencing case, which is scheduled for 29 May.

Holland was convicted in November 1997 of possession of cannabis for the purposes of sale or supply within the State on a date unknown between 1 October 1995 and 6 October 1996.

He was sentenced to 20 years but this was reduced on appeal to 12 years. Holland became involved with the John Gilligan drugs gang when he was released from an earlier prison sentence in 1994.

Garda Marion Cusack told the court at Holland's trial that after he arrived at the Dun Laoghaire ferry port on 9 April 1997, she arrested him on suspicion of having a firearm at the junction of the Naas Road and Boot Road on 26 June 1996.

"I had formed the opinion that Patrick Holland was the man who shot dead Veronica Guerin, " she said in evidence.
April 30, 2006

Saturday, 29 April 2006

Armed gangs get away with over €13m from 230 cash-in-transit van heists

By Ed Carty

Saturday April 29 2006
ARMED gangs have stolen more than €13m in hold-ups of cash-in-transit delivery vans since 2002, it emerged yesterday.

Despite more than 230 heists being investigated by garda detectives, only 22 cases have been brought against suspected robbers.

Labour Party justice spokesman Brendan Howlin said the shocking figures raised serious concerns for the Government and the security industry.

"The current cash-in-transit system appears to be operating like some massive ATM for the criminal gangs who can take what they like, with little apparent chance of being brought to justice," he said.

"The likelihood is that much of this money was used to finance the importation of drugs and arms, further boosting the coffers of the drug gangs and facilitating their destructive wars."

The Government figures showed that since 2002 there have been 237 recorded robberies of cash-in-transit vehicles with a total of €13.6m taken.

The worst year by far was 2005, when almost €6.3m was stolen and with just four months gone so far this year, €1.5m has already fallen into the hands of gangs.

The figures were obtained by Mr Howlin in reply to a written parliamentary question to the Justice Minister, Michael McDowell.

Unions, senior gardai, the Private Security Authority and Mr McDowell have held talks over the last few weeks in a bid to toughen security.

A dedicated anti-gang unit has been set up at Garda Metropolitan HQ in Dublin to tackle the spiralling crisis.

- Ed Carty

Sunday, 23 April 2006

Closing in on gangland murderers

Sunday Tribune

Six gangland killings a year ago marked a bloody month in underworld crime.But twelve months on, nobody has yet been chargedwith these violent deaths
John Burke Crime Correspondent
SENIOR gardai believe that surveillance operations which have led to several arrests for robbery and firearms offences in recent months may also lead to a breakthrough in the investigations of six gangland murders 12 months ago.

Although no charges have been brought in any of the murders, detectives believe recent developments could lead them to important new information in several of the investigations. When the murders occurred this time last year, they marked an unprecedented increase in the frequency of gangland murders.

Friday will be the first anniversary of the murder of both Hughie McGinley, the Sligo Traveller shot dead in front of his partner and infant daughter, and of former Westies gang figure Anthony Glennon, who died in his car at Clonee, Co Meath, when a group of men fired the contents of several handguns into the vehicle.

Their murders occurred in the middle of one of the bloodiest months in underworld crime, when half a dozen young men were shot dead between the middle of April and mid-May. The shooting dead of Joseph Rafferty on 12 April last year by a man with connections to the Provisional IRA kicked off a bloody four-week period in which more people were killed in gangland murders than in the whole of 2002.

The frequency of the gun murders led to a political storm which has not abated.

Commentators and political opponents seized on the words of justice minister Michael McDowell, who had described the killing of criminal Paul Cunningham six months earlier as ?the sting of the dying wasp". The minister's handling of the crisis has remained under a critical spotlight since.

Two days after Rafferty was slain, drug dealer Terry Dunleavy was shot dead outside his girlfriend's flat at Croke Villas near Croke Park. The following week, over a space of two days, Glennon and McGinley were murdered. A week later, on 5 May, Mark Byrne was shot dead as he walked up Berkeley Road having been released from Mountjoy prison.

Byrne had been nearing the end of a sentence for drugs offences and was on day release. Gardai are investigating the possibility that his death was related to a dispute with a former prison inmate. One man closely connected to the suspected murder was recently arrested after a garda surveillance operation on suspected ATM robbers.

On the day of his killing, Byrne walked from the prison into Berkeley Road.

Moments after leaving the Selections shop, where he bought mobile phone credit, he was shot three times in the head. He staggered across the street before collapsing in front of the Mater hospital. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The gunman was seen running down Berkeley Road in the direction of the city centre before turning right into Sarsfield Road and making his escape. Gardai are investigating the possibility that Byrne's killer was a known criminal from Ballymun exacting revenge for a knife attack on him by Byrne.

The shooting of 22-year-old Martin Kenny was one of the most brutal. He was shot dead in front of his girlfriend in her house at Ballymun Parade in the early hours of 14 May. The killer smashed in the front door and ran up the stairs and then shot the young man dead in bed. Described as a ?nice young fella" by neighbours, Kenny was not a major criminal figure and was known to gardai only in relation to what have been described as ?minor issues".

The killing of Joseph Rafferty on 12 April at his home at Ongar, west Dublin, allegedly by a man with close links to the IRA, bore a striking resemblance to the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney the previous January. While Rafferty's family have travelled to the US to obtain high-level support for their campaign to bring the killer to justice, there has been some development in a parallel investigation into a series of alleged burglaries at the Rafferty family home and an assault against a member of the victim's family.

It is believed Rafferty was told several times prior to his death by members of a family with whom he had become involved in a dispute that he would be targeted by the Provisional IRA. The mother of the family with whom Rafferty was in dispute is in a relationship with a former member of the IRA. He is the only suspect in the murder.

The dead man's family has since established the Justice for Joe campaign aimed at bringing Rafferty's killer to justice. They believe that, due to the chief suspect's connection to the IRA, the Sinn Fein leadership has done little to convince the suspect to give himself up.

On St Patrick's Day, Rafferty's sister Esther Uzell and family representatives were invited to the White House to meet US president George Bush. On a previous visit to the US in February they also met US special envoy for Northern Ireland Mitchell Reiss. In Dublin they have met the US ambassador James C Kenny and representatives from the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). In a report last February, the IMC noted that ?a member or former member of PIRA may have been involved" in Rafferty's murder.

While no charges have been brought in the murder of Hughie McGinley, gardai have made 20 arrests and seized several items relevant to the investigation. The victim was shot as he sat in a parked van in the centre of the town on the afternoon of 28 April last. The fatal shots were fired by the pillion passenger of a motorbike which pulled up alongside him and quickly sped away. The killing was widely believed to have been linked to an ongoing feud between two Sligo families.
April 23, 2006

Sunday, 2 April 2006

Expat criminals control half of all illegal drugs coming into Ireland

Sunday Tribune

John Burke Crime Correspondent
HALF of the illegal drugs shipments now imported into the state are under the control of expatriate Irish criminals who fled the state following the success of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), according to the head of customs anti-drugs enforcement agency.

The core of Irish drug criminals based primarily in Holland and Spain are fuelling the explosion in the supply of cocaine, cannabis and heroin which is directly related to the increase in gang shootings and assasinations over the past two years, including 19 gang murders last year . . . almost one-third of all violent deaths.

In the last week alone, a gunman in a Meath pub attempted to shoot dead the brother of a well-known drug dealer, Sean Dunne, who himself was killed in Alicante in Spain two years ago. In a separate incident, a carload of gunmen shot dozens of bullets at another group of criminals as they sped down a section of the M50 motorway.

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, Michael Colgan, head of the Customs Drugs Team, said that the expat criminals retain strong connections with younger criminals in the Dublin underworld through which they network large volumes of cannabis and ecstasy in particular.

Most of the Irish drug dealers who are now based abroad were members of prominent Dublin-based gangs in the 1990s, who fled the state following the intense focus by the gardai and revenue commissioners on assets accumulated through criminal proceeds, following the 1996 murder of Veronica Guerin.

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, 54, the Ballyfermot 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.

One of the main suppliers operating from Amsterdam is former Official IRA man, 54year-old Tommy Savage . . . a known associate of Mitchell . . .

who last month was jailed for five years in Greece after being convicted of attempting to ship cannabis via Athens.

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 gang, including John 'The Coach' Traynor, are also domiciled in Spain.

Traynor has always denied that he ordered Guerin's murder and says that reports that he is heavily involved in setting up drugs shipments from the Costa del Sol are not true.
April 2, 2006
Gangland gardai share out-of-date bullet-proof vests

Sunday April 02 2006
GARDAI who have to face Dublin's well-armed and well-protected gun gangs have to share out eight bullet-proof vests between 24 armed detectives.

Officers in the west Dublin garda district - where last weekend's M50 shoot-out took place - now fear their lives are being put at risk.

The district covers the Ballyfermot, Clondalkin and Rathcoole areas, where some of the most heavily armed and dangerous gangs are operating.

Out of a total of around 150 gardai, including uniformed and plain-clothes detectives, 24 are issued with revolvers.

But they have to share bullet-proof vests, some of which are ageing and may not provide protection against high-velocity rounds.

Only four "ballistics vests", as they are officially known, are available in Clondalkin station, two in Ballyfermot and one in Rathcoole. There is one other smaller jacket for use by a female garda in the entire district.

There are 10 armed members attached to Ballyfermot, 12 in Clondalkin and two in Rathcoole. Not all would be on duty at the same time, but local gardai say that if there is a major operation against gangs known to be armed and dangerous the detectives prefer not to wear the jackets, rather than leave some of their colleagues unprotected.

One local detective said yesterday that some of the jackets were "stinking" and had not been replaced or cleaned in years.

Unlike the gardai, the west Dublin drugs gangs have the latest Kevlar jackets which can stop bullets up to the .44 Magnum. The "early generation" garda jackets provide protection against only low-velocity weapons.

When the Garda press office was asked, yesterday, how many bullet-proof jackets the force had, it made no reply.

Meanwhile, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) has complained about the decision to fly journalists to England this weekend, along with Justice Minister Michael McDowell and Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy - to attend a conference about reserve policing. The conference, hosted by the local constabulary, is in Cheshire.

GRA president Dermot O'Donnell yesterday said: "This is scandalous. The minister is spending thousands of euros of taxpayers' money on going to this conference in England for the weekend - money that could be spent on providing bullet-proof vests and anti-stab vests for our members who are serving the community out on the streets tonight."

Mr O'Donnell said he had learned of the trip only last week.

"The minister or the commissioner might have had the courtesy to have asked some of the garda representatives if they wanted to come. We rang the organisers but they said they were booked out.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said the five journalists on the trip to Cheshire were paying their own way.

But Mr O'Donnell said: "I was at the NYPD Patrolmen's Benevolent Association conference in New York last year and they were shocked to learn the Garda Siochana had no anti-stab jackets.

"They have previously collected retiree's vests and supplied them to police in Puerto Rico, and offered to do the same for us.

"Is it the situation that Ireland, today, is unable to provide its police with the basic minimum protection that is provided for police in every other First World country?"

He said that the latest bullet-proof vest costs around €1,000, and the trip to England would have paid for enough to fit out a detective unit in Dublin.

The gardai are currently running a test of anti-stab jackets at Tallaght Garda Station, but have yet to issue the jackets to city centre stations in Dublin and elsewhere.

Last July, Garda Dave Comer was almost killed after he was repeatedly stabbed when he and a colleague responded to a call about an incident at a house in Santry in Dublin. He is still recovering.

Mr O'Donnell said: "All police in England, including the voluntary reserves, go on duty wearing anti-stab jackets.

"We want the minister to ensure that all our members have the basic minimum protection before going on duty."