Gardaí say the Kinahan crime cartel is “running out of people to do their work” after an international operation resulted in 13 arrests in Ireland and the Netherlands and the seizure of an estimated €10m worth of drugs.
Officers said international drug suppliers in Colombia, Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium increasingly believe that doing business with the cartel is “too high-risk” because of the police heat they are attracting.
The 13 arrests included eight Irish men, at least five of them serious members, the most significant a long-time drug importer and money man, aged in his 50s, from the Ringsend part of Dublin’s south inner city.
He and two men from Limerick, one considered a significant drug importer, were also arrested in operations in the Netherlands.
They were arrested along with four Dutch nationals and one Dutch-Belgian national thought to have been involved in the supply to the Kinahan grouping.
Two men from north Dublin, trusted members of the cartel, were arrested in relation to a massive drugs haul in Meath and Dublin.
These five Irish men are thought to be responsible for both the importation of, and payment for, the consignment.
Drugs valued at €7.3m were seized from units south of Ashbourne, Co Meath, and nearby The Ward in north Dublin in a planned search by the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
Two men, from Kinsealy and Clonshaugh, north Dublin, aged 31 and 37, were arrested. Sources said they were known to gardaí and were trusted associates of the Kinahan cartel.
In the south inner city, as part of an ongoing operation codenamed Thistle targeting lower-to-mid-ranking cartel associates, detectives seized an estimated 3.5kg of drugs, thought to be heroin and/or cocaine.
Depending on test results, they could be valued between €250,000 and €500,000.
Some €25,000 worth of heroin was seized in a property in Kilmainham, along with €6,000 in cash and three imitation firearms.
Three men were arrested in those searches.
Police in the Netherlands seized 175kg of cannabis herb, cannabis resin, cocaine, and cannabis oil, which, using Garda estimates, are worth €3m.
Vacuum-packed cash, computers, encrypted phones, and bitcoin currency were also seized from safes in two apartments, one of which had 13 bolts on a reinforced metal door.
Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll, who is head of special crime operations, was in the Netherlands to help co-ordinate investigations.
Europol, the EU police agency, assisted in the operation and Mr O’Driscoll visited its headquarters in the Hague.
The operation is the latest in a series of actions against the Kinahan cartel, including a succession of drugs and guns hauls. There have been up to 40 Garda operations preventing assassination attempts on members of the rival Hutch faction, resulting in arrests and charges.
On top of that, numerous cartel associates have been charged in relation to some of the eight murders linked to the cartel in Ireland since February 2016.
“We are tackling the cartel like any criminal organisation,” said a senior source.
“We treat it like a pyramid. We start at the bottom and work our way up.”
The source said the cartel is now losing its workforce.
“They are running out of people to do their work — with the numbers in custody, the numbers charged, or abroad,” he said.
“They will need to get a new cohort of people, but they will need people they can trust and who are someway capable.”
The source said drug suppliers from the likes of Colombia, Netherlands, or Spain were increasingly wary of doing business with the cartel because of the heat they were attracting from law enforcement in Europe.
“Will they do work with the cartel when they see the damage that is being done? The risk is too high,” he said, adding that they will be seen as “vulnerable”.
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