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kinahan cartel

Man jailed for two years for supplying phone credit used to coordinate murder of Noel Kirwan

At the time, the Kinahans were targeting members of the Hutch gang who they held responsible for an attack at the Regency Hotel.

A “TRUSTWORTHY” GYM owner who helped the Kinahan Cartel carry out a serious offence by buying his friend – a leading member of the gang – a top-up for a phone that was used to coordinate the murder of an innocent man, has been jailed for two years.

Michael Crotty (42) had admitted that in buying the €20 top-up for Sean McGovern, he was reckless as to whether it would be used by the Kinahan criminal organisation in the commission of a serious offence.

The court has heard that the phone which was topped up using the payment made by Crotty was used to coordinate the 2016 murder of Noel ‘Duck Egg’ Kirwan.

Mr Kirwan had no involvement in criminality but was targeted by the Kinahan cartel because they mistakenly believed he was linked to the Hutch gang.

At the time, the Kinahans were targeting members of the Hutch gang who they held responsible for an attack at the Regency Hotel in which senior Kinahan gangster David Byrne was shot dead.

At today’s sentencing hearing at the three-judge court, presiding judge Justice Caroline Biggs accepted that while Crotty was reckless as to whether the top-up would be used in the commission of a crime, there was no evidence he knew it would be used in a murder.

However, she said the fact it was used in a murder is an aggravating feature as is the evidence from a senior garda that the Kinahan organisation is an international criminal gang involved in murder, the importation and distribution of drugs, and other crimes.

She set a headline sentence of six years but reduced that to two years after considering mitigating circumstances including Crotty’s guilty plea and lack of previous convictions. She said Crotty has never been on the garda radar before or since and is a highly regarded employer in his Tipperary community where he runs a successful gym.

Justice Biggs said 21 people had written “exceptional” references on Crotty’s behalf.

They described him as a reliable, trustworthy businessman who had made an “outstanding contribution to the community” and provided employment for numerous people.

Others said Crotty helped them through drug and alcohol addiction or traumatic experiences, the judge said.

She noted that Crotty is considered at a low risk of reoffending, is clearly valued in his community and is a source of significant employment.

“Unfortunately that makes him ideal prey for those involved in criminality,” she added.

Crotty is the fourth person to be jailed for offences related to Mr Kirwan’s murder and gardaí are pursuing further lines of inquiry.

At a hearing in April, Mr Kirwan’s daughter Donna Kirwan said she hopes Crotty will “never see the light of day again”. Members of the Kirwan family have described the devastating impact the murder has had on them.

Mr Kirwan (62) was shot dead as he sat next to his partner in his car outside his home on St Ronan’s Drive, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 on 22 December 2016. He suffered eight gunshot wounds in total to his head, right arm, chest and abdomen.

Michael Crotty (42), of Slí Aonghusa, Aras na Rí, Cashel, Co Tipperary had pleaded not guilty to facilitating the murder of Mr Kirwan and went to trial in January of this year.

However, in February he entered a guilty plea that he, between 20 October 2016 and 22 December 2016, both dates inclusive and within the State, with knowledge of the existence of a criminal organisation did participate in, or contribute to, activity intending to, or being reckless as to whether such participation or contribution could facilitate the commission of a serious offence by that criminal organisation or any of its members.

At a previous hearing, Detective Sergeant Sean Cosgrove said the background to the case was the notorious shooting at the Regency Hotel some months before. He said Crotty participated by buying €20 in credit for Sean McGovern, who has previously been described in court as being a leading figure in the Kinahan cartel.

Det Sgt Cosgrove said that a tracking device was put on Mr Kirwan’s car, with DNA and fingerprint evidence linking this device to two other individuals. The device was also connected to a mobile phone number that was used on the day of the murder to contact the company from which the device was purchased.  

Det Sgt Cosgrove said that two numbers appeared to have been used by those who perpetrated the murder. Another number was used by someone who coordinated the shooting, onto which the credit was loaded. Crotty passed the credit to the user of this number, and he was also in contact with the same individual using another number.

Det Sgt Cosgrove said that both Crotty and the user of the number passed the credit on unregistered numbers but used their ordinary phones for other communications around the same time. Justice Biggs said the inference was that both Crotty and the other individual were aware that the purpose was unlawful.

Padraig Dwyer SC, for Crotty, said his client had pleaded guilty to recklessness in buying the phone credit but it had “never been his [Crotty’s] intention for it to be used in the endangerment of any person”.

In December 2018, Jason Keating (32) was jailed for 10 years for helping the cartel carry out the “execution-style murder” of Mr Kirwan.

The court heard Keating played a role of “real significance” in the murder as he was present at the scene of the shooting, was in contact with the person who monitored the tracking device and provided this information via a phone to the assailant, who had approached Mr Kirwan’s car and shot him.

Keating, last of Lower Main Street, Rush, Co Dublin, had admitted to participating in or contributing to activity intending to facilitate the commission by a criminal organisation or any of its members of the murder of Mr Kirwan.

Declan ‘Mr Nobody’ Brady (57), of Wolstan Abbey, Celbridge, Co Kildare pleaded guilty earlier this year that between October 20, 2016 and December 22, 2016 he facilitated the commission by a criminal organisation of the murder of Christopher Kirwan, contrary to Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act.

Martin Aylmer (37), with an address at Casino Park, Marino, Dublin 3 pleaded guilty to participating in, or contributing to the murder of Christopher (aka Noel) Kirwan between 20 October, 2016 and 22 December, 2016 with the knowledge of the existence of a criminal organisation.