The victim, named locally as Noel Duggan, was shot dead at his detached four-bedroomed home in the Old Mill estate in Ratoath at around 7.45pm.
Emergency services fought to save his life. Two cars were reportedly found burned out near the airport.
Garda sources last night stressed they would examine all possible motives for the attack, but fear it may have been carried out by the Kinahan gang.
A notorious senior member of the gang, from Dublin’s south inner city, flew back into the country on Tuesday and detectives will examine his movements and communications since.
Mr Duggan, 55, was a long-time criminal heavily involved in the cigarette smuggling trade, and was referred to as Mr Kingsize.
He was previously targeted by the Criminal Assets Bureau. The agency seized an apartment and retail block from him in Stoneybatter on Dublin’s northside in 2003 and he went on to make a €4m tax settlement with CAB.
The man, originally from Dublin, moved with his family out to the exclusive Meath estate more than 10 years ago.
While good friends with Gerry Hutch, garda sources do not believe he was involved with the Hutch gang.
“He was tight enough with Gerry Hutch going back a long time, but was more an easy target, I’d say, if the link is established with the Kinahans,” said a senior garda source. “He would have been on the periphery of the Hutchs and not involved in their organisation. He would have been, maybe, a facilitator for them in terms of export and import and he would have had great links with logistics.”
Garda sources last night said that while they would investigate all potential motives for his murder, the feud with the Kinahans was the main theory, at present.
The circumstances of the shooting were not immediately known last night and gardaí were conducting house-to-house inquiries to see if anyone saw or heard anything suspicious.
The feud has already claimed two other lives since the start of the year. David Byrne, 33, from Crumlin, south Dublin, a senior member of the Kinahan gang, was shot dead at the Regency Hotel in north Dublin on February 5.
The murder was suspected to be a retaliation for the killing of Gary Hutch in Spain last September. In revenge, Eddie Hutch Sr, 58, the brother of Gerry Hutch, was shot dead at his home in Dublin on February 8.
Last night, gardaí appealed for anyone who was in and around Old Mill estate in Ratoath or Fairyhouse Road yesterday evening and who may have seen anything unusual or suspicious to contact Ashbourne Garda Station on 01-8010600.