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'Senior member' of Kinahan cartel jailed for directing attempted hit on Hutch gang member

Mr Justice Tony Hunt today said Peter Keating was a “repository of trust and confidence” for the organised crime group.

Peter Keating was jailed for 11 years at the Special Criminal Court today.
Peter Keating was jailed for 11 years at the Special Criminal Court today.
Image: Shutterstock

Updated Sep 2nd 2021, 3:16 PM

SENIOR KINAHAN CARTEL member Peter Keating, who admitted directing the activities of the crime group in their failed attempt to murder Hutch gang member James ‘Mago’ Gately, has been jailed for 11 years at the Special Criminal Court today.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt today said that Keating (40) was a “repository of trust and confidence” for the organised crime group.

Speaking outside court, gardaí said that the investigation highlighted the transnational outreach of organised crime, whose members “do not recognise law or respect our borders”.

Mr Justice Hunt said that Keating of Rowlagh Green, Clondalkin, Dublin 22, pleaded guilty in late June of this year to directing the activities of a criminal organisation between 7 December 2016 and 6 April 2017, within and outside the State. This involved the “ongoing targeting” of Gately in the context of a feud between the Hutch and Kinahan crime groups.

Mr Justice Hunt said that Estonian hitman Imre Arakas was brought to Ireland in 2017 to carry out the murder of Gately but had been apprehended by gardaí.

Gardaí examined Arakas’ phone and discovered messages and photos relating to the targeting and killing of Gately and informed the PSNI in Belfast, where Gately then lived, of the threat to his life.

The Kinahan cartel’s plan to murder Gately was “crystallised” for gardaí with the arrest of Arakas, said Mr Justice Hunt, which lead to Keating’s conviction for his role in the assassination plot.

The judge said that Keating was a “senior figure” for the Kinahan Organised Crime Group, which he described as being a “well-organised, complex, sinister and dangerous organisation”.

Mr Justice Hunt fixed 16 years’ imprisonment as a pre-mitigation headline sentence but gave Keating a “full and fair” 25% discount for his early guilty plea, which the judge said was in the public interest and also saved a costly trial.

The judge said that Keating’s role in the cartel went “over and above” the role of direction within the crime group and that Keating was a “senior frontline member” involved in the commission of a serious offence.

He said that Keating was a “significant part of the surveillance of James Gately and his family regarding the proposed murder” and that five tracker devices were involved in the plot.

Sentence

Mr Justice Hunt said that although Keating had ten previous convictions, the offence before the court of directing the activities of a criminal organisation was a “significant step up”.

The judge said that mitigating factors included Keating’s previous positive contribution to the community and a favourable report from the governor in Portlaoise Prison.

Mr Justice Hunt also noted that Keating needed regular medical treatment, which made a lengthy prison sentence “somewhat more difficult”.

He said, however, that Keating could not have been ignorant of the nature of the Kinahan Organised Crime Group and that the failed attempt on Gately’s life was not due to any “reluctance” on the part of Keating but was due to Garda intervention.

Mr Justice Hunt said that Keating was a “repository of trust and confidence” for the Kinahan cartel, which “heavily aggravated” matters.

Mr Justice Hunt sentenced Keating to 12 years’ imprisonment, suspending the final year for two years. Keating then entered into a bond of €100 to keep the peace for two years. The judge then backdated the sentence to 1 July 2020.

Father-of-three Keating spoke only at the non-jury court to acknowledge himself bound to the peace for two years upon his release from prison.

The judge said that if Keating had pleaded not guilty and gone to trial, his conviction would have warranted a “full” sentence, which under Section 71 (A) of the Criminal Justice Act carries a maximum jail-term of life imprisonment.

Speaking outside the court after Keating’s sentencing, Detective Chief Superintendent Seamus Boland said: “Today’s sentencing for Peter, also known as Peadar Keating, for 12 years’ imprisonment for directing the activities of an organised crime group within and outside the State is a significant development for An Garda Síochána’s strategy to disrupt and dismantle organised crime groups participating in violence, which is the scourge of communities.”

Boland said that “three people have now been convicted of criminal conspiracy to murder an individual [Gately] in Belfast in April 2017, during the course of a well-documented gangland feud between the Kinahan Organised Crime Gang and the Hutch Organised Crime Gang”.

“This investigation has also identified the transnational outreach of organised crime, where such groups and people involved in this activity do not recognise law or respect our borders. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our own investigation team and our international partners and in particular, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the National Crime Agency and Europol. This investigation is still ongoing,” said Boland.

Previous hearing

At a previous hearing at the three-judge court, Detective Sergeant David Carolan said that following the Regency Hotel attack in which Kinahan gang member David Byrne was shot dead, Gately was “one of a number of members of the Hutch organisation who were targeted by the rival gang known as the Kinahan crime organisation”.

The detective said Arakas was brought to Ireland on 3 April 2017, to target Gately. Over the previous days Keating was involved in an operation to locate Gately’s Belfast home and track his movements using tracking devices planted on Gately’s car and on cars belonging to members of his family.

Arakas (62) was jailed for six years in December 2018, having pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to murder Gately in Northern Ireland between 3 and 4 April 2017. Arakas was arrested before the planned attack on Gately could be carried out.

Gately was later the victim of another attempted murder in May 2017.

Caolan Smyth (30) of Cuileann Court, Donore, Co Meath was sentenced to 20 years last February for attempted murder in relation to that second attempt. Gately, the court heard, wore a bullet proof vest and survived the attack despite being shot five times.

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Sentence hearing

At Keating’s sentence hearing, Detective Sergeant Carolan told Dominic McGinn SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions that Arakas’s arrival into Dublin Airport on 3 April, 2017 was noted by gardaí who then watched as he walked around areas of Dublin 1 that are associated with the Hutch organisation. Arakas was seen buying a wig and other items before being collected by a man in a white Mercedes.

Gardaí arrested Arakas early the following morning at Blakestown Cottages and from information on his Blackberry mobile phone, the detective said it became clear that Arakas had been brought to Ireland to target James Gately, who he said was connected to the Hutch organisation.

The phone contained images of Gately and text exchanges telling Arakas what to type into Google to find photos of Gately. There was also information pinpointing Gately’s Belfast home.

Gardaí contacted the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) who told Gately about the potential, imminent threat to his life. PSNI officers discovered a tracker device on Gately’s car and harvested CCTV footage which gardaí used to identify Keating and others in the vicinity of Gately’s apartment complex on 28 and 30 March, six and four days before Arakas’s arrival in Ireland.

Gardaí then pieced together Keating’s movements on those days and found that on March 28 he travelled to a Dublin Airport short term car park to pick up a blue Peugeot that had been brought to Ireland from Holyhead earlier that day. Keating left his own Volkswagen Caddy in the airport car park and drove to Dundalk, Co Louth, where he bought a Garmin satellite navigation (satnav) device. When gardaí later seized the device they used it to track Keating’s movements.

They found that Keating traveled to Belfast and to College Court, where Gately then lived. CCTV at the apartment complex confirmed that Keating had been there, checking the location of CCTV cameras before getting back into the Peugeot.

On 30 March Keating again drove the Peugeot to Belfast, this time with two other men. One of the men went into the car park of Gately’s apartment complex at about 11.13am and attached a tracker to a Toyota Avensis.

When Gately traveled to Dublin from Belfast later that day Keating was 10 minutes behind him on the same road, the detective said.

There was further evidence, the Garda said, that following the arrest of Arakas, Keating directed one of his co-accused to clean the Peugeot “from top to bottom to ensure all prints are gone off it”. The detective also pointed to Keating’s arranging to leave Ireland by ferry after finding out one of his co-accused was arrested at Dublin Airport having arrived from Birmingham on 6 April.

Gardaí found an image containing serial numbers for five tracker devices on Keating’s phone, one of which had been deployed on Gately’s partner’s car. The phone also contained Instagram images of Gately consistent with the information sent to Arakas to help him identify his target. There was also a reference to Gately being on holiday in Florida over the Christmas period.

Detective Sergeant Carolan said Keating has ten previous convictions, mostly for road traffic matters. His most recent conviction was in 2009 in Benidorm, Spain for a “tumultuous brawl” for which he was fined €900. The detective agreed with Hugh Hartnett SC, for Keating, that the accused was taking directions from others.

Hugh Hartnett SC, for Keating, had asked the judges to consider that his client is “effectively crippled from the knee down on the left side” from an accident he suffered as a teenager. He has ongoing, permanent difficulty including bone disease and an “unsightly wound”, counsel said.

He is, counsel said, a family man who has been involved for many years in organising for a community football team. He had also entered an early guilty plea, saving the court from a potentially lengthy and expensive trial.

Hartnett said that while Keating pleaded guilty to directing a criminal organisation, it was accepted he was receiving directions from others. Mr Justice Hunt said: “He is directing those on the ground but he is subject to directions.”

About the author:

Paul Neilan

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