Global crime ring probe started with drugs find in shed

Painstaking investigations into a suspected global crime ring first began after 1.5 tonnes of cannabis worth €11m was uncovered and led the Gardaí to a suspected drug distribution centre.

Painstaking investigations into a suspected global crime ring first began after 1.5 tonnes of cannabis worth €11m was uncovered and led the Gardaí to a suspected drug distribution centre.

The modest smugglers’ depot, a shed on farmland in a part of Co Kildare better known for its thoroughbred studs and race courses, was believed to be the gang’s staging post for trafficking in Ireland.

After a number of arrests and firearms seizures, suspicions turned to the masterminds who were thought to be trafficking shipments from overseas to drug-dealing gangs in Dublin.

Christy Kinahan, arrested today over the alleged global crime empire, was the main suspect.

Codenamed Operation Shovel, the lengthy inquiry pooled the resources of hundreds of intelligence officers across Europe – including Ireland, the UK and Spain.

Sources claimed the gang behind the cannabis haul had set up bogus food companies in rented warehouses on the outskirts of Dublin, where huge quantities of drugs were shipped in from the continent and marked as food products and stored.

The stash was distributed around the country by close associates on the ground. They took vans from local drug dealers and returned them with the drugs so the whereabouts of the warehouses could not be traced.

Kinahan, implicated by security chiefs as the head of an international crime network, has several previous convictions for fraud, forgery and drugs offences.

Almost 20 years ago – in March 1987 – the now 53-year-old was jailed for six years for possession of IR£117,999 of heroin in Dublin,

Nine years later he was sentenced to four years for possession of IR£16,000 of travellers cheques – which had been taken during a bank robbery in the Irish Nationwide branch in Drumcondra, in 1993.

Since his release authorities, believe Kinahan has been slowly building up an empire and set up his base in the south of Spain where he allegedly became the mastermind of the most powerful crime gang there and in Ireland.

He was one of nine Irish nationals arrested in Spain, while one man was detained in Dublin.

IT equipment, mobile phones, documents, bank account details and cash were seized during 29 raids on homes and businesses in Dublin and Co Meath by more than 100 gardaí.

Chief Superintendent Tony Quilter, head of the National Drugs Unit, said the work of the predominately Irish gang had a far-reaching effect across Europe.

“The fact that a number of prominent Irish criminals have been arrested I would imagine will impact to some degree on the drug market,” he said.

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