Friday, 28 May 2010

Judges to quiz Irish gangsters on €250m drug empire links

Judges to quiz Irish gangsters on €250m drug empire links

By Gerard Couzens and Tom Brady

Friday May 28 2010

SPANISH authorities want to question two major crime figures here about their involvement with drug kingpin Christy Kinahan.

The pair have been named on a list of people Spanish judges plan to question following the arrest of Kinahan (53) on the Costa del Sol and the break-up of a criminal empire, which police believe is worth €250m, he is suspected of heading.

Both of the Irish-based criminals have been moving between here and Spain for more than two years and are friends of some of those already arrested in this week's inquiries.

One of the suspects is a convicted criminal and was questioned by gardai last year about the €7.2m tiger kidnap of an official from the Bank of Ireland branch at College Green in the centre of Dublin.

Another suspect for that robbery was detained by gardai on Tuesday over his alleged links to Kinahan's empire but was later released.

The criminal was also a suspect for the murder of Derek Duffy, of St Attracta's Road, Cabra, in September 2007. Duffy was murdered in the front seat of his car after he had agreed to meet the gunman.

The second man wanted for questioning is the reputed leader of one of the gangs involved in the deadly Crumlin-Drimnagh feud and he relocated to Spain last summer -- but keeps in close touch with his associates here.


An Estepona-based judge currently co-ordinating the Kinahan inquiry has named both men in the formal judicial proceedings that opened after Tuesday's arrests.

Christy Kinahan and his alleged right-hand man John Cunningham, who were detained during dawn raids at their Costa del Sol homes, are also on a list of people and companies linked to the police operation drawn up by the judge at court number three in Estepona.

The judge intends to quiz all 22 people on the list about the massive drug-trafficking and money-laundering operation. After they give statements, the judge will decide whether to make them witnesses or suspects. Their assets have been frozen by court order as a precautionary measure.

The list is expected to expand in coming days as the inquiry continues. But a source close to the inquiry said: "They are all regarded as part of this case and will be called to court for questioning."

More than 30 firms suspected of being fronts for money laundering and drug trafficking are also on the list drawn up by the judge. Police believe the companies involved may have been used to ship drugs between Spain, Ireland and the UK.

Spain's Interior Minister Alfredo Rubalcaba described the gang under investigation as one of the "most dangerous" ever tackled.

Hilario Lopez, the Spanish government's delegate in Malaga Province, said: "Those involved in organised crime know they're being pursued.

"The feeling of impunity they once enjoyed no longer exists."

- Gerard Couzens and Tom Brady

Irish Independent

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