Judge finds Kinahan gang trafficks drugs and weapons on 'international scale' as he jails 'foot-soldier' Mark Capper

The Kinahan crime organisation carries out execution-style murders and trafficks drugs and firearms on an international scale, the Special Criminal Court has found.
Judge finds Kinahan gang trafficks drugs and weapons on 'international scale' as he jails 'foot-soldier' Mark Capper

The Kinahan crime organisation carries out "execution-type murders" and trafficks drugs and firearms "on an international scale", the Special Criminal Court has found.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt today said the non-jury court accepted garda evidence on the organisation and structure of the cartel as he jailed a "foot soldier" for seven and a half years for helping to plan the murder of Patrick "Patsy" Hutch.

Sentencing Mark Capper at the non-jury court today, Mr Justice Hunt said the defendant "knew well" what was contemplated by his associates and he had a "shrewd appreciation" of the detail and methodology to be used in the proposed murder. He was also capable of expressing doubt as to the details of the proposed plan.

The judge said the 31-year-old's conduct was intentional as opposed to reckless and he was initially prepared to serve on the front line and offered ideas towards the plan to murder Mr Hutch. There is no doubt he was aware of the nature and structure of the Kinahan organisation, he added.

Capper was most likely "dropped" from the plot as he was not sufficiently on board due to his reservations and state of mind, pointed out the judge.

Kinahan gang involved in 'execution-type murders'

Referring to the Kinahan criminal organisation, Mr Justice Hunt said the court accepted garda evidence that it is an organised crime gang involved in "execution-type murders" in the context of feuds "to protect its core activities", which include "organised drugs and firearms" offences on "an international scale".

The Special Criminal Court further accepted that the crime gang operated "an organised hierarchical structure" with "cells and sub-cells" to "segregate activities and limit knowledge" among gang members. The gang also operated on directions from superiors within this hierarchy.

Capper, who admitted helping the organised crime group with a plan to kill Patrick Hutch - the older brother of the leader of the rival Hutch organised crime group - pulled out three days before the attempted murder.

Capper of Cappagh Green, in Finglas, Dublin 11, pleaded guilty in March to having knowledge of the existence of a criminal organisation and participating in activities intended to facilitate the commission of a serious offence by that criminal organisation, or any of its members, to wit the murder of Patrick Hutch within the State between February 1 and March 10, 2018, both dates inclusive.

During the sentence hearing for Capper earlier this month, the non-jury court heard evidence on how the Kinahan gang operates a hierarchical structure, with compartmentalised "sub-cells" acting independently from one another.

Storm Emma ended first Hutch murder bid

The three-judge court also heard that Capper was hired by the Kinahan organised crime group and the arrival of Storm Emma had scuppered the gang's first bid to murder Mr Hutch.

Passing sentence today, Mr Justice Hunt, presiding at the three-judge court, said that Detective Inspector David Gallagher gave evidence on May 11 last, where he specifically identified the criminal organisation as the Kinahan organised crime group. He said the court found that this was "uncontroverted evidence" establishing the identity of the organisation, whose activities involved execution-type murders as well as the trafficking of drugs and firearms on an international scale.

The non-jury court further accepted that the crime group was organised in a hierarchical structure with sub-cells engaged to advance these core activities. These sub-cells operated on the directions of superiors within the hierarchy and had limited knowledge of those further down the organisation, he said. The evidence established that there was a determination to murder Mr Hutch and a sub-cell was devoted to that purpose, which involved advanced planning, he said.

Mr Justice Hunt said an intelligence operation was led from the outset and surveillance had identified ten persons directly involved in this enterprise. The target of the operation was not known to gardai at the early stage but it became apparent towards the end of February 2018 that the organisation was trying to murder Mr Hutch and it was based on three central elements.

The first was to set up a "staging post" at Belmont apartments which was midway between two locations associated with the target Patrick Hutch. The second was a "ruse" to commit criminal damage "to lure" Mr Hutch from his home to the murder scene while a "looker" would give the "hit team" the signal when he was on his way. The third element was to have a "getaway location" at Stoney Road in East Wall in Dublin 3 where the gunmen would go through a pedestrian tunnel and a car would be waiting on the other side to take them away.

Capper did not appear as a participant within the sub-cell until February 24, 2018 and there were recordings of specific conversations between Capper and Michael Burns - who has also pleaded guilty to the same offence - concerning Mr Hutch's movements. These recordings included references to drawing Mr Hutch out of his home, gardai presence in certain areas, the underground car park at Belmont Hall Apartments on Gardiner Street and the burning of a getaway vehicle, said the judge.

Capper concerned about getting arrested

Capper had expressed concern about getting arrested, was reluctant about carrying out the plan, had concerns regarding the weather and referred to needing more weapons, pointed out Mr Justice Hunt.

Audio surveillance of a vehicle recorded Capper asking Michael Burns for a loan of €50, which he was refused. Mr Justice Hunt said this shed light on Capper's financial motivation for his involvement in the incident as he was obviously struggling with money at the time.

He said the defendant "knew well" what was contemplated by his associates and he had a "shrewd appreciation" of the detail and methodology to be used in the proposed murder. Capper was also capable of expressing doubt as to the details of the proposed plan and participants had considerable reservations and scepticism about his participation in the incident, he said.

Mr Justice Hunt said the prosecution had established a link between Capper's conduct and the serious offence contemplated by the criminal organisation. The evidence established that he had assisted in the preparation for the very grave crime of murder and his conduct was intentional as opposed to reckless, he said, adding that he was initially prepared to serve on the frontline and had offered ideas on the plan.

"Capper's intentional assistance was provided to a criminal organisation of a very serious type and there was no doubt he was aware of the nature and structure of the Kinahan organisation," highlighted the judge. Undoubtedly, Capper was of considerable assistance to the Kinahan organisation and it must be accepted his acts of facilitation and assistance terminated three days before the proposed murder, said the judge. However, Capper had not assisted to the full extent that was originally contemplated by him and no serious crime actually occurred, he continued.

It was not known if Capper actively withdrew or if his retainer was withdrawn but given the reservations expressed, it was most likely the defendant was dropped from the plot as he was not sufficiently on board due to his state of mind, said the judge.

'No thanks to Capper and his cohorts'

Capper had caused inconvenience to the Kinahan organisation when he dropped out on March 7, he said. He also noted that the fact serious harm or death did not ensue was due to the fine work of gardaí and no thanks to Capper or his cohorts.

The judge set the headline sentence at 11 years in prison. The weightiest mitigation factor was his early guilty plea and he was entitled to a 25 percent discount from the headline sentence resulting in a sentence of eight years and three months, he said.

Capper has 65 previous convictions and suffered with a drug addiction problem. He was diagnosed with ADHD from a young age, had an IQ of 63 when he was 13 years old and attended a school for pupils with learning disabilities.

The judge said Capper's involvement in the event arose from his financial circumstances and his drug addiction and further suspended the last nine months of the sentence

Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Dermot Dempsey, sentenced Capper to eight years and three months imprisonment with the final nine months suspended, backdated to December 5 2019, when he went into custody.

In July 2019, a three-man "hit for hire team" received sentences totalling 36.5 years at the Special Criminal Court for planning to kill Patrick "Patsy" Hutch before they were intercepted by gardai just 250 metres from their target's home in Dublin's north inner city.

Gary Thompson (35) and his brother Glen Thompson (25) were each jailed for 12 years and six months. A third man, Afghan war veteran Robert Browne (36) was sentenced to 11 years and six months in prison.

Gary Thompson, with an address at Plunkett Green in Finglas, Dublin 11, his brother Glen Thompson, of Plunkett Drive, also in Finglas, and Robert Browne, of Phibsboro Road in Phibsboro, Dublin 7 admitted to unlawful possession of four firearms with intent to endanger life at Belmont Hall Apartments, Gardiner Street, Dublin 1 on March 10, 2018. The four firearms included a 9mm Rak sub-machine gun, a .38 Special Calibre Rossi Make Revolver, a 9mm Beretta 92 semi-automatic pistol and a 9mm Makarov semi-automatic pistol.

SENTENCE HEARING:

At Capper's sentence hearing last month, Detective Superintendent David Gallagher from the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, summarised the facts of the case. He told prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane SC that he was satisfied the criminal organisation that targeted Mr Hutch was the Kinahan gang.

Det Insp Gallagher said the Kinahan gang was a criminal organisation involved in murderous feuds as well as organised drug and firearms trafficking.

He said the cartel had a hierarchical structure which sub-cells operated to benefit and enhance its capabilities.The sub-cells were assigned activities from the higher level and each group were necessarily aware of what other sub-cells were doing.

The witness said the sub-cells operated to “benefit and enhance the capabilities” of the criminal organisation.

The cell assigned to murder Patrick Hutch involved up to ten people, the detective said, and the plan involved three central elements.

Capper was one of a number of cell operatives put under surveillance by the Garda Drug and Organised Crime Bureau.

Det Gallagher agreed with defence counsel Seamus Clarke SC, for Capper, that his client was a “foot soldier” in the organisation and had financial problems.

Capper was one of a number of cell operatives put under surveillance by the Garda's Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the court heard. He was also recorded suggesting that the motorbike used in the "hit" could be driven into the back of a van after the murder. He also expressed reservations about the plan and was particularly concerned about the garda protection post that was at Champions Avenue in Dublin near Patrick Hutch's home. He was also worried about the motorbike cutting out and waiting in a van for a call to carry out the shooting and that he could not see if there was anyone around before he was to get out.

Audio surveillance of a vehicle recorded Capper asking Michael Burns - who has also pleaded guilty to the same offence – for a loan of €50, which he was refused.

Capper was heard telling Burns he wouldn’t be sitting in the back of the car if he had any money, the court heard.

On February 27 2018, Capper was heard on audio surveillance expressing concerns about the plan and also about the garda protection post located at Champions Avenue in Dublin, near Patrick Hutch's home.

Mr Burns is heard telling Capper “I don’t think you are up for this pal, I genuinely don’t”.

There were reservations expressed by other members of the gang about Capper’s involvement and they were not happy with his commitment to the plan, said the detective.

Mr Clarke said another member of the gang referred to his client as as "eejit".

Mr Clarke said his client had poured cold water on the plan and Detective Gallagher agreed that the defendant had challenged the plan. The witness further agreed that he expressed concerns about feeling it was a bit rushed and about the time frame.

The original plan was scuppered because of Storm Emma and the attempted murder was postponed until March 10 2018. However, Capper pulled out of the attempted murder plans three days before the plot was foiled by gardai who swooped on the gang on March 10 and seized guns, ammunition, cars and vans and arrested the "hit team".

The single count to which Capper pleaded guilty includes providing or assisting in the provision of one or more motor vehicles for use by the Criminal Organisation and/or moving one or more motor vehicles for subsequent use by one or more members of the Criminal Organisation and/or carrying out repairs to one or more vehicles for subsequent use by one or more members of the Criminal Organisation and/or carrying out reconnaissance on behalf of the Criminal Organisation and / or planning or assisting in planning the intended shooting of Patrick Hutch.

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