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