Criminal underworld in total chaos after collapse of €1bn crime empire
Gangland figure Fat Freddie thought to be in hiding after 'ratting out' kingpin Kinahan
By JIM CUSACK in Dublin and GERARD COUZENS in ESTEPONA
Sunday May 30 2010
Dublin's criminal underworld was in disarray yesterday with leading gangsters reported to have fled the city as kingpin Christy Kinahan and other members of his gang -- including his right-hand man John Cunningham -- began appearing in court in Spain.
Kinahan, his sons Daniel and Christy junior and an unnamed woman appeared at a closed hearing in court in Estepona yesterday and were remanded to prison. Kinahan's close associate Cunningham and another Dublin man were remanded in custody after they appeared before the same court on Friday.
Spanish police mounted a major security operation around the court yesterday morning just after 9am. The three were questioned individually by Judge Maria Carmen Gutierrez Henares who then committed them to prison to await trial. They were led off in handcuffs by heavily armed police.
The woman suspect called to court yesterday morning was identified only as a secretary who worked for the Kinahans. A source at the court said all those suspects who had not been released or bailed over the past three days would be called back to court later and that state prosecutors would ask the judge to send them to a local prison while the investigation is carried out.
Suspects can be held for two years without formal charges being laid, or up to four years for the most serious offences. The same judge ordered the release on bail of six other men on Friday.
A total of 22 were arrested in raids on the Costa del Sol last Tuesday morning in one of the largest joint police operations ever undertaken in Europe.
The Kinahans and Cunningham have officially been declared formal suspects by Judge Gutierrez Henares.
Gardai are confident it is the biggest single blow to organised crime in Ireland since the break-up of John Gilligan's gang in the aftermath of the murder of Veronica Guerin in 1996.
Cunningham, a long-time associate of Gilligan, had been looking after Gilligan's interests in Spain. Gardai are confident those assets are among the assets seized by the Spanish police.
Notorious gangland figure "Fat" Freddie Thompson and a close associate disappeared from Dublin last Monday, less than 24 hours before the huge police operation swung into action in Spain, Belgium, Holland, Britain and Ireland. News of his disappearance caused a flurry of anxiety among the other main drugs gangs in the city who distributed drugs supplied by Kinahan's operation.
Intelligence reports reaching gardai in the city indicate that Thompson is suspected of being a "rat", the underworld expression for informant.
It is known that Kinahan humiliated Thompson and his associate during a visit to his villa outside Marbella earlier this year, making him carry out menial tasks in front of other senior criminals.
Gardai and gangsters were also searching for one of Kinahan's money launderers in Dublin who also disappeared last week around the time of the international operation took place.
This 29-year-old, who also runs a ticket tout business, is apparently suspected of having also "ratted".
It has also emerged that supplies of heroin in Dublin had dried up by Friday.
Gangs supplied by Kinahan had virtually wiped out rival drug networks over the past two years during the worst spate of gangland murders in the history of the State. This led to an almost total reliance on Kinahan's network, according to gardai.
It also emerged last week that the massive Operation Shovel, which by week's end had led to the seizure of properties in three continents with an estimated overall value approaching €1bn, began with an investigation into links between Kinahan and various gangs including that of Freddie Thompson two years ago. A report from garda detectives based in the B Division in south inner Dublin was passed up through the force's national units to the European police agency Europol and the Spanish and other EU police forces.
They had began gathering the information on Kinahan's network after a seizure of heroin worth €13m in an apartment in Clondalkin in late 2008.
The Spanish and other police forces carried out a prolonged surveillance operation in close liaison with the Garda's National Drugs Unit. Information from wire taps and other surveillance from this operation was placed before Judge Gutierrez Henares who questioned Kinahan and his sons and Cunningham over Friday and yesterday before detaining them in custody.
Kinahan and his sons were taken to the Alhaurin de la Torre Prison near Malaga yesterday afternoon.
Kinahan, who served terms of imprisonment for drugs possession and fraud in the 1990s, is by far the wealthiest Irish criminal.
The Spanish police valued holiday complexes and residential property he bought in Brazil at €500m.
This is part of an international portfolio across Europe and in the Middle East, they said.
Yet he abandoned his first wife Jean, who still lives in the small flat in the Oliver Bond complex in south inner Dublin where she raised their two sons, Christy junior and Daniel. Jean worked as a cleaner to pay for their upkeep while her husband was in prison. Since leaving Ireland in 2002 Kinahan struck up new relationships and has families with two women living in Holland and Belgium.
In Dublin yesterday gardai said that the distributors of Kinahan's drugs are extremely paranoid and they fear further violence will erupt as the existing criminal order breaks down and new suppliers emerge.
- JIM CUSACK in Dublin and GERARD COUZENS in ESTEPONA