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Gardaí and Birmingham police working together to take down the last remnants of the Kinahan cartel

A number of senior members of the cartel had fled to the Midlands city in a bid to rebuild their crumbling empire.

Image: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

POLICE IN THE English city of Birmingham are working with gardaí as they attempt to dismantle some of the last strongholds of the Kinahan cartel in the UK.

A number of senior members of the cartel had fled to the Midlands city in a bid to rebuild their crumbling empire since the successful prosecutions of many of the criminal gang’s main players. 

Successful operations conducted by the Criminal Assets Bureau, effectively recouping much of Liam Byrne’s accumulated wealth, resulted in him moving across the Irish Sea to the UK.

Despite the theory that the Kinahan/Hutch feud is thought to be over, Byrne was always going to be a target for criminal gangs operating in Dublin, such was his power in the cocaine and heroin markets in the capital. 

Police in the UK have discovered he is now living in an affluent part of the city, close to where some Premier League footballers reside and near some of the main organised crime hotspots in England’s Midlands.

Gardaí and Birmingham police have shared intelligence on the gangs’ operations and are in the process of targeting the highest players in the criminal enterprises. The successful prosecution of top figures in the cartel such as that of murderer Fat Freddie Thompson last year has left the organisation in pieces. 

At the start of the year 51-year-old Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh, of Tamworth, was detained at Birmingham Airport on suspicion of conspiring to import and supply drugs, firearms and ammunition, as well as money laundering.

He was charged with possession of a Section 5 firearm following his arrest, which was carried out as part of a National Crime Agency investigation into the supply of drugs and firearms in Ireland and the UK.

The operation was supported by gardaí and Staffordshire Police, and follow-up searches were carried, when a combination torch and stun gun, which is illegal to own and possess in the UK, was recovered. Bomber Kavanagh received a three year jail sentence for this crime in September. 

Similarly, the conviction of James Mulvey last year over in Birmingham was another death knell of a cartel which has been crumbling under the pressure of international police forces for the past two years.

Mulvey is currently serving a 32-year sentence in the UK for conspiring to import €80 million worth of cocaine and cannabis into Britain.

He was secretly bugged by UK police forces, revealing a number of links to big time drug suppliers in the UK and Ireland.

The same police surveillance techniques revealed more links to criminality, including those to Mulvey’s cousin, Gerard ‘Hatchet’ Kavanagh.

After Kavanagh’s killing at a bar near Marbella in Spain in 2014, Mulvey was recorded saying:

This is what my life was, I’ve tried to get away with it, but I don’t want you involved in it, do you understand how these people work… they kill the people you love.”

‘Hatchet’ Kavanagh was another of the cartel’s leading figures, overseeing the smuggling of large quantities of cocaine. 

Police have long suspected that Kinahan associates living in Birmingham are the link used to ferry drugs into Ireland. 

Gardaí believe that Liam Byrne’s escape to the west midlands city is his last attempt to try to carve out some of the drug business in England. However, CAB’s stranglehold on his assets here has made a return to business in Ireland all but impossible.

In the High Court in July last year, Justice Carmel Stewart noted that Liam Byrne was the leader of the Byrne Organised Crime Group (BOCG) which is involved, amongst other things, in the importation and distribution of controlled drugs and firearms in Ireland and has close connections to the Kinahan Organised Crime Group. 

The court heard extensive, detailed and largely uncontroverted evidence against Byrne, who was described by CAB as a career criminal heavily involved in drug trafficking and violent crime with connections to international criminality operating out of the UK, Spain and the Netherlands

This was the first time a judge had explicitly stated that Liam Byrne was a high-ranking member of the cartel and CAB was now firmly on his tail. 

The cartel, meanwhile, has also had an informant problem in the past three years. Intelligence gathered by gardaí during the long-running Hutch-Kinahan feud has proven instrumental in tackling the cartel’s influence.

shooting 802 Source: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

The current crisis in the cartel has its roots back in 2016.

David Byrne was murdered at the Regency Hotel. Byrne was a high-ranking lieutenant in the gang. He took orders from the top brass and was effectively the cartel’s enforcer in Dublin’s south inner city before he was shot dead. 

His murder sparked the Hutch-Kinahan feud which has claimed over 15 lives in the last three years.

As the feud spiralled out of control with many of the Kinahan cartel’s leaders leaving the country, Liam, David’s brother, was tasked with running its interests from Dublin in the initial aftermath of the Regency attack, effectively creating the Byrne Organised Crime Gang (BOCG). 

The High Court, in its July 2018 judgement, dealt with Liam Byrne by differentiating his activities from those of the Kinahan cartel. The Kinahan Organised Crime Gang (KOCG) and the Byrne Organised Crime Gang (BOCG) were treated as separate entities.

UK and Irish police believe that the power of the BOCG is slowly waning with around six or so Dublin gangs taking control of the empire the gang used to run.

The Kinahan cartel may well be struggling to survive in its current form but its tentacles are still spread across the country and Europe, its power still very much alive – even if some its key members are either dead or in prison. 

In Dublin, the emergence of new criminal gangs in Finglas, Ballymun, Coolock and Clondalkin can be traced to the diminishing impact of the KOCG in these areas. 

While gardaí continue to fight against these well-established gangs, they know that there is a significant new wave of gangland crime emerging. 

These newer gangs are now the priority for officers working in many stations based in the Dublin Metropolitan North region.

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