Officers seized a powerful machine gun — capable of firing 600 rounds a minute — along with more than 3kg of high-purity cocaine in a raid on an apartment in a leafy part of north Dublin.
A 37-year-old man was arrested at the address in Castleknock.
Detectives said the cartel was “so confident” about the secrecy of their safehouse that they didn’t even bother hiding the MAC-10 firearm.
Gardaí said the seizure of the machine gun had “saved lives” and that it could be used at close quarters to “riddle” targets in what would be, by the nature of the weapon, an indiscriminate shooting.
The operation on Monday was carried out by the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and the Serious Crime Task Force.
The task force was set up this summer to combat gangs and gunmen involved in the Kinahan-Hutch feud, which has claimed at least eight lives, two of them in Spain. The unit is part of the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and is led by a detective inspector and comprises around 40 detectives.
“This is not something that is to be expected in somewhere like Castle-knock,” said a source.
“It’s out of the way in a nice, quiet area and it took a lot of work to find it.”
He said places like this were purchased or rented “for the purpose of evading gardaí”.
He said: “This is a safe place for the organised crime group, a secret place. Not many in the group would even know about it.
“And they were so confident it wouldn’t be found by us that the gun wasn’t even hidden or buried.”
He said the gang was using this place for storing and moving weapons as well as a drugs factory. Officers seized drug paraphernalia and mixing agents in the apartment.
“The cocaine is a huge haul and of high grade as it had not been yet cut down. That’s a big financial loss.”
Detectives were awaiting tests from Forensic Science Ireland to see the exact quantity of cocaine seized, which is between 3kg and 6kg.
With an estimated value of €70,000 per kg of street cocaine, it would suggest a nominal value of between €210,000 and €420,000.
Given the cocaine is believed to be high purity, the actual value is likely to be three to four times that.
“This seizure is very significant because of the machine gun,” said the source. “You don’t get many of them. To take such a weapon out of circulation in the current climate is very significant.”
He said a submachine gun was able to fire on average 600 rounds a minute, with a magazine containing 32-35 rounds. The source said that at close range it could riddle a target, such as a house or a public venue, and given its indiscriminate nature could end up killing anyone.
Garda sources said that the feuding gangs are typically not using professional hitmen but “clowns with a gun”.
The consequences of this were seen with the murder of innocent man Trevor O’Neill in Spain last week in a case of mistaken identity.
The 41-year-old was walking along with his partner and children in Majorca, where they were holidaying, when a gunman shot him instead of his target, a member of the Hutch family.
“It shows you the type of people you are dealing with. The gangs are paying people €50,000 or whatever and some clown goes off and shoots someone.”