Irish criminals head Britain’s underworld rich list

AN INVESTIGATION into Britain’s richest underworld figures has found that the richest drug dealer and smuggler are Irish.

The list, compiled by a BBC team from information gleaned from police and criminal sources, names the fugitive Irishman Brian Brendan Wright as the most prolific and richest drug smuggler with an estimated fortune of over €100m.

And, according to a BBC Underworld Rich List programme to be broadcast next week, the IRA’s south Armagh commander is the most successful smuggler on the islands, with an estimated fortune of some €50m. The IRA man has amassed a fortune from the trade in oil, cigarettes and livestock but he has not yet been targeted by either the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) or its British equivalent, the Assets Recovery Agency.

Much of the illicit cash he generated is likely to have been directed in to the coffers of the IRA.

But police sources told the BBC investigators: “He has more money, and made more money, than any other paramilitary figure in the history of Ireland. His wealth... probably an accurate figure would be something between £35 and £40 million.”

Another un-named republican paramilitary is described as the sixth richest smuggler, having allegedly amassed a €10m fortune from the illicit trade in oil and cigarettes.

Wright, a 59-year-old fugitive living in northern Cyprus, was born in Ireland but grew up in the then staunchly Irish district of Kilburn in London.

He was named in a British court as the mastermind behind the importation of cocaine with an a total estimated value of €400m in a two year period in the mid to late nineties.

But his operations began to unravel following the 1996 interception off the Cork coast of the trawler Sea Mist. Cocaine worth €100m was discovered on board and one man was later jailed here. In follow up operations, a further 18 gang members were arrested and later jailed, including Wright’s own son.

Others with Irish connections figure prominently on the list of around 30 named and un-named figures.

Mickey Green, a British national who lived in Ireland for a number of years and who lost his palatial properties here following a CAB probe, is named as the second richest drugs smuggler. The CAB estimates his worth to be up to €60m.

Green is now thought to be living in Spain, having spent some time posing as a legitimate businessman before being unmasked by an informer. He went underground but the CAB started an investigation.

Chief Superintendent Felix McKenna, head of the CAB, described how Green quickly moved to save his antiques from seizure before members of his bureau were sent in to seize them.

Although Green was able to clear the antiques from his houses, the CAB team was able to seize and sell off his properties.

Chief Supt McKenna claimed Green has managed to evade jail time by, in part, corrupting officials, saying: “He was high into corrupting officialdom. That’s part of his forte all over the years when you read about him in police investigations.

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