Sunday, 25 June 2006

Gardai to crack down on drug dealers' assets after latest murder

Sunday Tribune

Criminal Assets Bureau and drugs squad aim to seize property and cars as probe into north Dublin killing spree continues
John Burke Crime Correspondent
SPECIALIST garda units, including the criminal assets bureau (CAB) and the garda national drugs squad, will this weekend launch a major crackdown on assets derived from the drug-dealing businesses of newlytargeted criminals believed to be connected to a recent spate of killings in north Dublin.

The decision comes after a top-level meeting between the senior members of several sections of the force and the garda commissioner, Noel Conroy, following the murder last week of 22-year-old father of one James Purdue in Donaghmede.

It is understood that, in tandem with the probe of assets portfolios, including property and cars, by CAB, there will be a major increase in the monitoring and tracking of key suspects' movements in relation to drug dealing and other criminal activity.

"Arising out of the Coolock investigation that is ongoing at the moment, a number of new targets have been identified. We will describe them as 'a silent drug trafficking fraternity', " CAB chief Felix McKenna told the Sunday Tribune last week. "These investigations are now identifying small asset portfolios that these people have developed over the last five years."

Purdue's murder was the sixth violent death in the north Dublin area since February, although the current probe will focus only on the five gangland-related killings.

Gardai now face the difficult task of attempting to anticipate potential revenge attacks or any further gun attacks.

Gardai investigating Purdue's killing, outside the apartment he shared with his partner and daughter at Grattan Hall in Donaghmede, last week recovered the car used by his attackers. Gardai hope that forensic tests on the vehicle may result in a vital lead in the investigation.

Purdue, who was believed by gardai to have been involved only on the periphery of crime, died in Beaumont Hospital a short time after the shooting. The dead man was a friend of Patrick Lawlor, who disappeared in suspicious circumstances 18 months ago, although any direct link between the killing and disappearance has not yet been established, it is understood.

The Donaghmede murder comes just three weeks after a 23-year-old man was shot dead in the nearby area of Kilbarrack.

Keith Fitzsimons, from Glin Grove, was on his way to get a take-away from a local chip-shop when he stopped to chat with two other men in the garden of a house at Millbrook Road, Kilbarrack on the evening of the first Friday in June. A gunman walked up to the group and fired half a dozen rounds from a handgun. Fitzsimons was hit three times and died instantly. He was the fifth person to be murdered in the area since last Christmas, and the third to have died in a one-mile radius during that time.

The two men who were in Fitzsimons' company when he was shot dead are wellknown to gardai and are connected to local gang members involved in drug dealing and armed robbery. Both of these men were also wounded, although their injuries were not life-threatening. One of the men is believed to have been the intended target of the shooting.

Less than a week before Fitzsimons was shot, a close associate of one of the capital's biggest crime bosses was gunned down outside his Raheny home on 27 May. Fortythree-year-old Patrick Harte is believed to have been involved in the facilitation of crimes, in particular armed robbery, in the procurement of vehicles and the safe-keeping of cash. The father of four had only just returned to his home after dropping two of his children, aged eight and 10, to school.

A month before Harte's murder, a 24year-old man was also fatally shot in a gangland-style hit. Gerard Goulding, from Dublin city centre, had been lured from his home to a green area near St Donagh's Road. It is believed that whoever killed Goulding was known to him and had arranged to meet him. Shortly before he died, Goulding phoned his girlfriend, telling her that it would not be "too long" before he was home.

Just a month beforehand, gardai had launched two murder inquiries in Dublin in a six-day period. The murder of a young mother of one, Donna Cleary, who was shot dead as she attended a function at a friend's house in Coolock, was greeted with widespread public revulsion. The killing was described by justice minister Michael McDowell as a "watershed".

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said at the time that the young woman's killing represented "a new low". He added: "Somebody to blast live rounds indiscriminately into the front room of a small house to kill a young 22-year-old mother, it's hard to think of anything more low than that. It's a very sad occasion."

Ahern called for longer sentences for serious offences such as murder. He said:

"When you see the amount of crimes and gun crimes, it just makes you feel that perhaps we are just too lenient, that people serve too short a sentence for murder."

However, it later emerged, after questions by the Irish Times to the government's information office, that the government had no immediate plans to introduce such legislation.

Cleary, the mother of a three-year-old boy, was shot dead in the early hours of 5 March. A man who had earlier been denied access to a 40th birthday party at Adare Green in Coolock, at which the young woman was a guest, fired five shots through the sitting room window. The chief suspect in the shooting, 22-year-old minor drug dealer Dwayne Foster from Finglas, later died in garda custody.

"Clearly if an automatic pistol is going to be used in circumstances such as these, we all have to reflect on what kind of society we have, " said McDowell at the time. "That applies for everybody, not just the minister for justice, it applies to the judiciary as well. Possession of firearms is a very serious offences and it must be dealt with in a way which makes an example of any offender. I regard it now as a watershed point for all our social thinking on these matters."

Attributing this type of violent acts to drug dealing, McDowell said there were provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill for a gun amnesty for illegally held weapons to be taken out of circulation.

Last month, in a media interview, the garda in charge of the Dublin Metropolitan Region North division, chief superintendent Peter Maguire, said there were now more guns in circulation than ever before.

However, the senior garda insisted that the force was winning the battle against organised crime.

Five days after Cleary's killing, a man was found dead in a lane off Blackhorse Avenue in the north inner city. It later transpired that he had been shot dead. Shea Bradley was well-known to gardai and was on bail after having been charged in connection with the shooting of a man in a botched gangland murder attempt.

A native of Derry, Bradley lived in Dublin and was heavily involved in drug dealing through a number of west Dublin drugs gangs. The dead man had reportedly claimed to be a member of the INLA. He was facing charges in relation to the shooting of a man in Pollyhops Pub, Newcastle, Dublin, in September 2005, in which an innocent man was targeted by a gunman.

The intended victim in the shooting was 22year-old Owen McCarthy, from Clondalkin, who was later abducted, brought to the Wicklow Gap and shot dead.
June 25, 2006

Top Irish crime bosses pumping millions into Dubai to avoid CAB

Sunday Tribune

John Burke
IRELAND'S top crime bosses are pumping hundreds of millions of euro from illicit drug deals and armed robbery proceeds into the financial services sector in Dubai, the Sunday Tribune can reveal.

The group of Dublin and Limerick criminals are investing "millions and millions" into Saudi acounts, according to the head of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), Chief Superintendent Felix McKenna.

"We have traced enormous amounts of money that have gone to Saudi Arabia. One of the individuals that we are investigating, from Limerick, left this jurisdiction with 12m.

We traced 8m to 9m of that to Saudi Arabia. The antimoney laundering regime out there is not developed." The illegal drugs trade in Ireland is now valued at over 1bn.

McKenna said senior gardai were convinced the rising gangland murder rate is directly linked to cocaine use by young and lethally armed criminals. "They [senior colleagues] attribute it to the use of cocaine by these people, the shooters." This comment is the first time a senior officer in the force has directly linked the dramatic rise in gang-related homicide to cocaine use by young criminals.

McKenna said the boom in the cocaine market was a major concern. "I live in the real world. My daughters and sons tell me the amount of drugs that'd be offered to them when they're out around the city is unreal." He was also strongly critical of middleclass recreational drug users, saying: "They have no sense of civic morals at all."

CAB was established a decade ago, following the murder of crime reporter Veronica Guerin on 26 June 1996.

Since it began to tackle major crimelords, McKenna revealed that the agency has taken over 90m from gangsters.
June 25, 2006

The nature of the beast facing CAB

Sunday Tribune

Exclusive interview with Criminal Assets Bureau boss Superintendent Felix McKenna
John Burke Crime Correspondent
CRIMINAL assets bureau boss Felix McKenna draws a circle on a blank A4 page on his desk. In the circle's centre, he marks one dot with his pen, to represent the infamous Dublin criminal Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch. Around the circumference of the circle, McKenna marks five other dots which stand for the Monk's criminal lieutenants.

It is almost a decade since CAB brought Hutch to the high court to obtain money he had made as a prolific armed robber . . . the agency's first major case. Chief superintendent McKenna explains how CAB injected such fear into the minds of criminals that Hutch and his cohorts were forced to sell large portfolios of property to cover the bureau's demands. "We raised assessments against Gerry Hutch. He contested some of these at first. . .

when he saw we'd be moving to sell his house in Clontarf, he saw the writing on the wall. He sat down with his advisers and brokered a deal whereby the state benefited by around 1.5m, " McKenna recalls. It was a turning point in the war against criminals and their illicit profits.

"The knock-on effect of what Hutch did was that the inner core of four or five key individuals in his immediate gang did not go into any litigation against us; they coughed up monies straight away, " the CAB chief says. The agency has pursued the most profitable crimelords in the years since.

CAB came into life in the aftermath of the murder of crime reporter Veronica Guerin, which occurred on 26 June 1996 . . . 10 years ago tomorrow.

The bureau's success in tracing and seizing the assets of crime bosses has been the most fitting and effective memorial to her legacy.

The special unit was set up as a statutory agency under the Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996, passed into law on 15 October of that year. The mechanism the bureau has used under that legislation has seen CAB squeeze over 90m from the pockets of organised criminals from its inception up to the present day, McKenna reveals.

The top garda says that a "fundamental change" occurred back in 1996, with CAB's creation. "Prior to that we were living in an era where criminals committed crime and gardai and customs did their best to investigate but the godfathers of crime escaped. Their own gang members were fearful . . . which was passed on to the ordinary person on the street. There was a reluctance by persons to come forward and give evidence in major investigations." Up to this, the culture was one of securing criminal convictions. But CAB took another route. The agency tackled the profits of the big drug dealers and armed robbers using civil law.

To secure a conviction for a criminal act, the state must prove the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But in civil law the burden of proof is much lower. "It is a matter of probabilities. We satisfy the court that a certain dwelling house was bought using the proceeds of organised crime and the onus of proof shifts onto the defendant to say otherwise, " McKenna explains.

The agency's success is measured in the names of the gangsters whose criminal empires have been pillaged over the years. CAB seized assets belonging to major Dublin crime figure Brian Meehan, the man found guilty of Veronica Guerin's murder. In 2004, Limerick criminal Brian Collopy handed over a house worth 300,000 after admitting it was bought using the profits of crime.

CAB successfully sought 2m in unpaid tax and interest from alleged drug dealer Corkman Patrick A McSweeney that same year. In 2002, the bureau seized property belonging to Englishman Mickey Greene, once believed to be the UK's largest cocaine supplier. CAB sold his former country estate near Kilcock, Co Kildare for 1m. Former Real IRA director Liam Campbell was hit with a 820,000 tax demand.

While the money collected has been massive, CAB must wait a period of seven years to sell criminals' assets. As the monies gathered from the initial cases concluded up to 1999 begin to transfer to the state coffers, the taxpayer has benefited to the tune of 4.5m up to the present day, McKenna reveals. That figure is expected to snowball over the coming years.

McKenna has been instrumental in most of the state's major anti-crime probes in the past two decades. A member of the garda 'Tango Squad' that targeted Martin 'The General' Cahill in the 1990s, he oversaw the sale of the murdered Cahill's Cowper Downs home in south Dublin last year for almost 1m. A former member of the serious crime squad, McKenna, a native of Monaghan town, was appointed deputy head of CAB under Fachtna Murphy when the agency was established in 1996. He was made head of the garda bureau of fraud investigation in May 1999, later returning to head CAB.

But crime bosses have learned to adapt to the major pressure CAB brought to bear on their Irish-based property portfolios and assets. The central core of "really big players" in the drugs trade have moved their money abroad . . . to some of the most unexpected locations. "The main players have moved to Spain, and further afield. These are the ones doing the big deals. We have traced money, enormous amounts of money, that has gone to Saudi Arabia, " McKenna reveals. "Millions have gone into bank accounts in Dubai, from the guys in the top tier. They're bringing millions and millions over. One of the individuals, an individual from Limerick that we are investigating, left this jurisdiction with 12m. We traced 8m to 9m of that money he diverted to Saudi Arabia. Nearly all the cases involving the fellas at the pinnacle who are generating huge profits have transferred nearly all their money to Dubai.

"In Dubai, there's a financial services sector being built with huge opportunities for investing money . . . huge. The anti-money-laundering regime out there is not developed. There's parts of the world where money-laundering legislation is not even known about. In some other cases, they have moved lots of money to South Africa. They'd put it into a business, to try to legitimise it."

The practical measures that the big players use to conceal their ill-gotten wealth is complex and intricate. "They'll engage an ex-fraud man who they'll regard as their banker, a person who will understand the structures. . . you buy a company and then you buy a variety of other companies. You then create a single company as a secretarial company for all of the others. Through all these you create a series of bank accounts all over the place and then you start buying property in those company names. And it's like trying to get through a spider's web . . . because they will not use Ireland as the company registration office, they will use Guernsey or Jersey, the UK or Cayman Islands, or elsewhere, to register these companies, " says McKenna.

CAB has also identified a major trend in the way medium-level drug dealers, in their 20s and early 30s, are attempting to conceal their Irish-based assets. "Younger guys who have generated money from drug trafficking and who have so far beaten the punch on criminal prosecutions are putting their property portfolios in the name of a sibling or relative. Invariably we discover people who are on lone-parent allowance or social welfare but who will have property portfolios of three to four mortgages. But it is totally under the control of the criminal, " he says. Under new money-laundering legislation, banks and financial agencies must now forward suspicious transaction reports (STRs) to gardai. "Ten years ago, we got barely 1,000 STRs in a year. Last year, 2005, the moneylaundering investigation unit received 10,735.

That's a huge intelligence database for us."

Drug dealers also need cash. "Drugs is a cash business. If you buy drugs in the south of Spain or Morocco, you need cash, you can't bring your chequebook. They're transporting big sums of cash out in the cab of a lorry or in a spare wheel of a car, hidden inside the tyre in a vacuum-packed bag. But the big guys don't bring it themselves."

McKenna says the garda drugs unit has done much to dent the finances of illegal drug importers.

"A big seizure can put them back 1.5m. That could be 10 guys who put that money together. They all lose something and seizures by the drug squad and customs are increasing."

But the CAB boss is all too aware that the boom in the cocaine market is a major issue. "I live in the real world. I hear from my own children that the amount of drugs that are available in places is unreal. My daughters and sons tell me the amount of drugs that'd be offered to them when they're out around the city is unreal."

Massive cocaine use among young men in the criminal underworld has a fatal result, he notes.

"These guys [younger criminals] have no inhibitions in shooting each other. They're thugs and villains." McKenna says his peers among the senior ranks of the force involved in the investigation of homicide believe that the use of cocaine by young and lethally armed criminals is a key driving force in rising murder rates in gangland. "They attribute it to the use of cocaine by these people, the shooters. . . I've asked my counterpart in the drugs squad, and other senior officers, what is driving these fellas to do these killings and they've said it's cocaine."

McKenna's comment is the first time that a senior officer in the force has directly linked the dramatic rise in gangland-style murders to the consumption of cocaine by young criminals.

The CAB chief also imparts a strong opinion on the behaviour of middle-class recreational drug users . . . "they've gone with the wind, they have no sense of civic morals at all".

CAB is also now heavily involved in investigating cross-border smuggling of oil and cigarettes . . .

working with the North's assets recovery agency (ARA) . . . as well as a major probe into investments by subversives in the Republic's hotel and pub industries arising out of the Northern Bank raid.

McKenna insists that CAB's team of skilled tax inspectors, financial analysts, detectives, administrators, legal support and their dedicated lawyers from the state solicitor's office, are ready to strike further into the heart of criminal profiteering.

The bureau liaises with international police units via the Camden Assets Recovery Interagency Network (CARIN) . . . stretching across EU states, the US and further afield, exchanging intelligence on the tracing and seizing of assets. "Organised crime bosses nowadays live in a borderless world, " says McKenna. "They can move about by plane and whatever and they can move their assets abroad."

CAB will not be short of work in the coming decade, as evidenced by just one large room in the agency's Harcourt Square, Dublin complex, filled with dozens of cardboard file-boxes containing hundreds of thousands of documents . . . all related to
June 25, 2006

IRA crime godfathers are winning drugs war

By Jim Cusack

Sunday June 25 2006
THE figures speak for themselves. The rate of murders that can be attributed to organised criminals, all involved in drugs, has trebled since the period before the murder of Veronica Guerin. Taken as a benchmark, the tripling of gangland murders probably reflects a similar increase in the amount of drugs coming into the country in the same period. Ireland, senior gardai now re

THE figures speak for themselves. The rate of murders that can be attributed to organised criminals, all involved in drugs, has trebled since the period before the murder of Veronica Guerin. Taken as a benchmark, the tripling of gangland murders probably reflects a similar increase in the amount of drugs coming into the country in the same period. Ireland, senior gardai now readily agree, is awash with drugs. Class A drugs like cocaine and heroin that were limited in supply to Dublin and maybe Limerick and Cork in the mid-Nineties are now available in every small town in the country. Ireland is not unique. The same increase in drug trafficking and related violence affects every State in the EU and beyond.

The recent murders signify little, however, about how organised crime has developed in Ireland since the murder of the investigative reporter in her car at Newlands Cross 10 years ago.

At the time, Veronica was on the verge of exposing the largely unknown quantity of organised drug crime in Ireland. Before she began delving into the activities of John Gilligan and his associates, gardai and the media had focused on the exploits of a small number of traditional Dublin gangsters, such as the remnants of gangs like that led by Martin 'The General' Cahill.

What was not known, or reported at the time of Cahill's death was that it was not, as claimed by the Provisional IRA, a murder carried out by them as some sort of rough "people's justice" or because he was allegedly involved with loyalists in a plot to bomb Dublin. Cahill was taken out by a leading figure in another republican terror group, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), which was then in the pay of Gilligan's gang - and remains linked, according to gardai.

The murder of Martin Cahill showed, for the first time, that in the wake of the IRA's terror campaign in the North, republican organisations were establishing firm roots in Dublin crime. After Cahill was murdered, the Dublin IRA - unbeknown to its northern leadership - issued a statement falsely claiming that it had murdered Cahill, diverting attention away from the real culprits. It was a neat exercise which suited both the republicans and the emerging power in drugs in Ireland.

Gilligan effectively had the complicit support of the Dublin IRA and had members of the INLA in his pay. He was importing enough cannabis to make everybody rich. He was even importing small arms which he passed on to republicans as sweeteners.

The murder of Veronica Guerin had a huge impact on "ordinary" organised crime but it did not stop the relationship between the former terrorists and the non-political criminals who emerged in the wake of the break-up of Gilligan's gang. It is thatrelationship that has forged the shape of modern organised crime.

In the two or three years after Veronica's murder, drugs importation was disrupted and gangland killings almost became a thing of the past. The first of a new trend in murders in Dublin began sometime in the late Nineties when a new professionalism appeared. One of the first and most notorious criminals to die was Joseph Foran, a 38-year-old vicious criminal and drug dealer from Finglas. Foran was shot dead as he sat in his car outside his home. He was killed by the Dublin IRA.

The IRA in Dublin had earlier killed a Sheriff Street man who was not involved in crime, Gerard Moran, 35, after he had a dispute with figures close to the IRA "officer commanding" in Dublin. Moran was killed with a shotgun fired by a motorcycle pillion passenger, a figure who was well-known to gardai and who was also a Sinn Fein election worker. A similar murder occurred in April 2000 when another north city man, Thomas Byrne, a petty criminal, was assassinated after he had a punch-up with IRA's Dublin OC. In both cases the victims were only guilty of showing disrespect to IRA godfathers.

Gardai detected the hand of IRA assassins in several murders in the later Nineties and opening years of the new Millennium. The IRA was in on Dublin crime and would have a profound effect on its resurgence after all the efforts put into tackling the issue in the wake of Veronica Guerin's murder.

The new organisational structure of Dublin crime became apparent to detectives investigating drug gangs in the south inner city. One gang with regular links to members of the local IRA was seen to be flourishing against what had previously been seen as daunting opposition from Martin Cahill's tough former gang members. In Easter 2000 an attempt was made on the life of Seamus "Shavo" Hogan but gardai intercepted the assassins who crashed their motorcycle at the Walkinstown roundabout. Both were members of the IRA and Sinn Fein. The pillion passenger was seen to throw a handgun into the grass on the roundabout and although this was immediately recovered the two were released from custody after only a brief detention - the reasons for their release raising eyebrows among local detectives.

Hogan was eventually assassinated by the IRA in July 2001 and his opponents have since had a free run in supplying the lucrative drug market in the south inner city, while their IRA protecters have also prospered.

The Government, obsessed with the continuation of the 'peace process' in the North, was seemingly at pains not to have the boat rocked by embarrassing revelations of IRA involvement in criminality in the Republic. It has never been officially admitted that gardai were asked to hold back against the Provisional IRA but many gardai saw it that way.

While the Dublin IRA was providing protection and the new base for the expansion in organised drug crime in the capital, other elements of the IRA were building up their own massive crime empires.

Fuel smuggling, which has cost both the Irish and British exchequers untold millions in fuel tax, boomed in the past decade, to the point where the IRA became one of the largest diesel suppliers in the island. Cigarette smuggling became another boom industry with the IRA again almost out-supplying the legal manufacturers. Another field of direct IRA involvement was armed hijackings, particularly of high-value containers from Dublin Port where the Dublin IRA controlled crime. This direct involvement in armed hijacking came to an end only two years ago when gardai arrested and came close to charging the Dublin 'OC'. After that, container hijackings were franchised out to Dublin criminals with close associations but no direct membership links to the IRA.

One of the major figures armed and directed by the IRA, Colm Griffin, was shot dead by the gardai during the armed raid of Lusk Post Office last year. He was wielding an IRA-supplied handgun when he was shot dead.

There has been no hard evidence to date that the IRA became directly involved in large-scale drug dealing. They tended to leave that to non-members who, gardai firmly believed, paid substantial percentages of their profits for IRA protection. The IRA may not be directly involved in the drugs trade but it benefited financially in a massive way.

More recently, the IRA has established links with organised crime in the same areas of the Costa del Sol where many of Dublin's top "ordinary" criminals now reside. Two months ago, the current Dublin IRA OC's successor was arrested with another well-known Dublin IRA man in connection with the seizure of a huge shipment of smuggled cigarettes clearly destined for the IRA and British markets.

The former 'OC' fled to Spain the year after the murder of Det Garda Jerry McCabe when gardai uncovered evidence that he had been involved in directing the attempted armed robbery.

What has emerged from the Spanish investigation that uncovered the IRA cigarette smuggling operation is that republicans have maintained a major smuggling network which may, in the past, have been used for weapons but is now used for contraband and, possibly, drugs.

It is not proven but the suspicion is there that - again at arm's length - the IRA is providing the transport infrastructure for Ireland's organised criminals.

One of the key strategic weapons deployed against organised crime in the aftermath of Veronica's murder was the introduction of the assets-seizure legislation and the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB). CAB has been a major success, tapping into the financial networks here and abroad of Ireland's leading criminals - and more recently republican networks.

CAB's success has been in exposing our big criminals, seizing their luxury homes and expensive cars. In order to hold on to their money, Dublin criminals along with associates from Cork and Limerick flocked to the coastal resorts of southern Spain where they were dubbed the "Murphia" by the earlier generation of British gangsters who fled to the sun in the Eighties and Nineties.

Almost by default, the Murphia became the wholesale middlemen and women who now supply parts of the UK drugs markets after developing mutual links with their British counterparts. Again, Gilligan was one of the first Irish criminals to develop these links. The fact that his gang is still in operation, but abroad, was underlined earlier this year with the seizure of 24 tons of cocaine being shipped to Spain from south America. Those arrested included British and Irish-born criminals and one with links to the Italian Mafia.

The Irish middlemen in Spain and to a lesser extent in Holland - both countries have laissez faire attitudes to foreign criminals - are doing well but they tend to live in reasonably priced villas or apartments, unlike the massively ostentatious new eastern European mafias who flaunt their wealth.

The Murphia sometimes ape the Russians, occasionally hiring supercars or ocean-going yachts to entertain or impress their fellow criminals but rarely invest in ownership of these vehicles or boats for fear of seizure. Occasionally they return to Ireland but only furtively, maybe to attend family weddings or other events.

One Dublin figure, formerly a leading member of the city's IRA brigade, spent a small fortune on his daughter's wedding last year but left almost as soon as the nuptials were completed. He, according to associates, puts on a brave face about his life abroad but, like many of the others, misses home. That, however, does not stop him and his associates making fortunes supplying drugs and contraband. The big fish - basically the same people who were around at the time Veronica was murdered - still run the show but they merely feed the Irish market.

Those now involved in the latest bloody round of murder and gun crime are merely their distributors, young men who become rich quick and often die young. Some of these distributors have tried to break into the big time in Spain but have found it very difficult. Those with aspirations to make it big on the Costa were given a sharp reminder that the godfathers still have clout in recent years. Two of them, former "Westies" gang leaders, Stephen Sugg, 26, and Shane Coates, 31, tried to bully their way into the big time in Spain only to disappear in mysterious circumstances in February 2004. At first it was thought they were in hiding but it is now accepted they are dead. Another young Dublin criminal, Sean Dunne, 28, also disappeared in September 2004.

Following the latest bout of killing centred on Coolock Garda District, Commissioner Noel Conroy has directed all available armed resources to target and harass the people responsible. In the coming weeks, they will be unable to breathe easy but this will have only a finite effect on drug crime, senior officers acknowledged last week.

One area gardai would like to see improved is Ireland's customs defences. Since the creation of the borderless EU, combined with the upturn in the Republic's economy, unforeseen levels of goods flow in and out of our ports. Yet, we still have only one container X-ray machine to cover the entire country's seaports. While it was still being tested last year the €3m machine picked up a drugs consignment worth about 10 per cent of its value. Given that the value of drugs entering this State must now be worth hundreds of millions, if not over a billion, there would seem to be a simple strategic need for more protection and detection equipment at seaports.

In international terms, there seems little can be done to combat the drugs market. The United Nations Office on Drugs Crime estimates the international drugs trade to be worth around US$322bn in retail terms.

Against this international backdrop there is very little sign that drug trafficking will stop. The Irish drugs lords have adapted and will continue to adapt to whatever measures are deployed against them.

The EU is currently negotiating with countries like Spain and the Netherlands to extend the same assets-seizure legislation devised in Ireland in the wake of Veronica's murder and already copied by the UK. However, that could take a decade. The international war against drug trafficking is being fought with only minor successes. The battle in Ireland ebbs and flows. For the moment, the traffickers are winning.

- Jim Cusack

Thursday, 22 June 2006

Gardai home in on gangs for clues to murder

By Tom Brady

Thursday June 22 2006
THUGS from three local gangs are on a suspect list drawn up by gardai investigating the brutal murder of a Dublin man.

James Perdue, a father of one, was known as a "hard chaw" but not regarded as a major criminal in his native Coolock and senior officers said last night they had not established a firm motive for the shooting in nearby Donaghmede early last Monday morning.

But they were closely examining members of three crime gangs based in the Coolock area.

Mr Perdue (22), who was from Belcamp Crescent in Priorswood, had been staying with his girlfriend and their three-year-old daughter at Grattan Wood in Donaghmede.

He left the apartment shortly after midnight to buy food at a local chipper and was returning half an hour later when a gunman stepped out of the shadows and shot him in the side and in the leg with a small calibre handgun.

The victim is known to have been associating loosely with a big drugs trafficker who is operating in the Coolock area. The gang boss, who is in his 30s, is now living in Cavan but keeps in close touch with associates on the northside of the capital. He has no criminal convictions for drug dealing.

Detectives are examining whether there had been a recent row between those associates and members of any other rival gang. They are also trying to establish if Mr Perdue owed a debt to a criminal.

And they are again studying a file on the disappearance of a friend of Mr Perdue, Patrick Lawlor, who went missing from his home in Darndale in December 2004 and has not been seen anywhere since then.

This followed the garda discovery of a drugs haul, to which Mr Lawlor was allegedly linked, in June 2004 in Donabate.

His car was found near Dublin airport the day after he disappeared and a fresh search for his body was carried out in Malahide earlier this month. A number of criminals were to subsequently allege that his disappearance had been in some way connected with the drugs seizure of June 2004.

Gardai have ruled out any connection between the shooting and any of the five other murders that have taken place in the area since February.

- Tom Brady

Sunday, 11 June 2006

Convicted drug-runner, Guerin murder suspectf millionaire property mogul

Sunday Tribune

A new investigation is to reveal how crime boss JohnGilligan . . . currently serving 20 years in Portlaoise prison . . . is in control of a multimillion euro property empire in Spain
John Burke Crime Correspondent
JAILED crime boss John Gilligan is in control of a multi-million euro property portfolio in Alicante in Spain while behind bars in Portlaoise Prison, a major investigation into the Irish criminal underworld is set to reveal.

The new probe will expose the 54-year-old Dublin criminal as the beneficial owner of 13 properties in the Mediterranean country, despite being under tight security in the Co Laois jail.

In the first major expose of the infamous criminal since he was convicted of drugs offences five years ago, RTE'sPrime Time Investigateswill show that Gilligan also remains a major force in the drugs business to this day.

In a documentary to be screened tomorrow evening, the programme will reveal that Gilligan is involved in organising and controlling a massive international criminal network from behind bars.

The programme includes a strongly-worded reply by the drug gangster to the claims that he remains a major underworld figure. When contacted by Prime Time, Gilligan insisted: "None of my money is wrongly got. None of my property is wrongly got. I can account for that when I have to, and when I'm good and f**king ready, I'll account for that."

Asked about her alleged role as a "godmother" of crime, Gilligan's wife Geraldine also mounts a robust defence: "That is bollox. I am not the godmother of crime. I have never been anywhere near crime, " she insists. Geraldine Gilligan is now based in Spain.

The programme will reveal that Gilligan organised the property investments while he was awaiting trial for Veronica Guerin's murder. He was acquitted in relation to the homicide charge but was subsequently convicted of running a drugs empire.

Drug dealer exodus There has been a dramatic exodus of Irish drug dealers to the continent in recent years. The Sunday Tribune revealed last year that gardai and Spanish police have identified a large number of Irish criminals, particularly from the west Dublin area, who have moved to the Alicante region in recent years. They are concentrated in particular on the Torrevieja area of Alicante, where legitimate Irish property investors are also a major force.

Two- to three-bed townhouses in the Spanish city can cost from around 140,000 upwards, while small apartment are much cheaper than in Ireland, at around 85,000 for a 75sq ft apartment.

The Sunday Tribune investigation found at the time that while there is no clear indication that a large amount of illegal drugs business is being conducted by Irish criminals in the city. The booming property trade has also seen an influx of Russian mafia, as well as Moroccan and expatriate English drug dealers, all of whom are eager to expand traffic routes for the transit of hard drugs, especially cocaine, into mainland Europe, the UK and Ireland.

The RTE investigation also explores the dealings of George 'The Penguin' Mitchell. The programme makers dramatically filmed Mitchell in action as the veteran criminal walked from his Dutch home to make calls from public phone boxes in the apparent belief that it was a safe way to communicate. Mitchell is regarded as a major international crime figure by police. Gardai interviewed on the programme express serious concern about the apparent ease with which Mitchell operates in Holland.

But it will be the programme's focus on John Gilligan that will fascinate most, particularly given the massive cost to the exchequer of keeping the drug dealer behind bars, as well as the legal battle which the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) has fought to get their hands on some of the criminal's Irish-based assets.

Drugs gang At Gilligan's 2001 trial on drug-related charges, the Special Criminal Court was told that Gilligan controlled a group of criminals, named as the Greenmount Gang, which was involved in the shipment and distribution of massive quantities of illegal drugs. For this he received a 28-year sentence, which was later reduced to 20 years.

When gardai raided his property, they recovered a large consignment of cannabis resin and lists indicating the illegal transit of significant amounts of the drug from overseas destinations.

Originally from Dublin city centre, Gilligan formed his gang in the early 1990s and initially developed his criminal enterprise largely away from garda attention, under the cover of his involvement in apparently legitimate businesses.

Guerin murder He had previously been known to gardai as a petty thief and had been involved in robberies on warehouses and goods. However, he developed a large-scale cannabis-selling enterprise with the assistance of several well-known criminals, including his lieutenant, Brian Meehan. Gilligan's gang first came to the attention of Veronica Guerin when he was being probed by the garda drugs squad over suspicion that he was becoming one of the dominant forces in the Dublin drugs trade.

Asst Garda Commissioner Tony Hickey told the Special Criminal Court in 2001 that the net profit from drugs sales organised by Gilligan was over 17m. Hickey said that over 2,000kg was imported from Amsterdam through Cork. Hickey told the court that there was "no evidence whatsoever" that anyone other than Gilligan benefited from the 2,800 per kg he received for the cannabis.

Chief Supt Felix McKenna of the CAB also told the court that it had only identified "a small amount" of Gilligan's assets at that stage. He said Gilligan had spent over 2m on Jessbrook Equestrian Centre alone.

In an interview with the Sunday Tribune last year, prior to his release from prison, former Gilligan gang member Patrick 'Dutchy' Holland claimed that a member of Gilligan's outfit, Charlie Bowden, was Guerin's killer. Bowden, an ex-army marksman, admitted loading the murder weapon. Bowden was one of the state's main witnesses in the case against Gilligan and is now believed to be living overseas under the witness protection programme.

Figures from the prison service show that it will cost the state over 5m to keep Gilligan in the highsecurity wing of Portlaoise prison over the term of his sentence; costing 230,000 a year to keep the major criminal in Portlaoise.
June 11, 2006