Big Irish gang targeted in €8m drug arrest in Spain


One of Ireland’s largest drug trafficking networks has been dealt a serious blow following the seizure of cannabis with a street value of up to €8m in Spain.

The key companion of gangster Paul Rice (52) was arrested yesterday during the police operation and is still in custody.

It is understood that 400kg of the drug, intended for the Irish market, was seized during the surveillance operation by specialized Spanish police.

The arrest of the 31-year-old “fugitive” Tallaght man is considered “highly significant” as senior sources say he has become the “effective leader” of the Rice organization in recent years.

The arrested man is well known to the Gardaí and has multiple prior convictions, including for violent disorder and public order offences.

He has served time in prison here and has close ties to the Kinahan cartel, which is also suspected of having an “active interest” in the massive drug shipments that were seized.

Last June, it emerged that the Rice mob were claiming all drug debts following a major Gardaí drug seizure, resulting in one of their key players being indicted in court.

The arrested Tallaght man played an important role in this criminal enterprise.

“This is a person that people are very afraid of – he’s often seen driving around in a convoy of cars and he’s been flexing his muscles,” a source explained at the time.

“He got into debt by making threatening phone calls and ending up at people’s doors – the situation seems to have worsened since the gardaí had this big hit against them so they must be tight on cash,” the source added added.

Aside from Rice and his younger ally, who is now in custody, the organized crime gang consists of two notorious criminal Tallaght brothers and “at least 20 foot soldiers ranging in age from their late teens to early 30s,” according to the source.

The gang are also suspected of sourcing the drugs they sell in the capital from Kinahan cartel operators in Spain.

And they used some seemingly legitimate businesses in the Tallaght area to run their drug trade.

In January this year, crime boss Paul Rice’s right hand man “almost had his face chopped off” in a sickening early-morning machete attack in West Dublin.

The man is understood to have required days of medical treatment for his horrendous injuries and has refused to cooperate with the Garda inquiry, which was led by Tallaght officials.

Rice is one of the capital’s most notorious criminals, but sources say he had his head down, content to have his younger associate “running business” on his behalf.

For years he served as an enforcer and debt collector for the Kinahan cartel.

He also has links to a number of dangerously dissident Dublin Republicans and was a longtime associate of Gerard ‘Hatchet’ Kavanagh, 44, who was shot dead in an Irish bar in Elviria, Spain, in September 2014 on orders of his own gang.

Rice himself is no stranger to violence and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in July 1995 after pleading guilty to the bank robbery in which gunshots were fired.

In the summer of 2016, as the Hutch/Kinahan feud that left 18 people dead was spiraling out of control, Rice installed new cameras and a state-of-the-art CCTV system at his Dublin home.

In March of that year, he had been formally warned by Gardaí of an active threat to his life after officers received information that the Hutch mob were planning to shoot him.

In October 2014, Rice’s home was raided as part of a major investigation by the Criminal Assets Bureau. Big Irish gang targeted in €8m drug arrest in Spain

Fry Electronics Team

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