Senior Kinahan agent Thomas “Bomber” Kavanagh ran a major British crime network that spanned seven countries and imported up to €36 million worth of drugs in one year.
avanagh, 54, was described today as “at the head” of a “sophisticated operation” that used heavy machinery to import drugs and export the cash payments back to Europe.
Ipswich Crown Court heard the Dubliner was dubbed ‘The Gaffer’ by his Irish subordinates – brothers-in-law Gary Vickery, 39, and Daniel Canning, 43, as the inner workings of the criminal enterprise were revealed.
Evidence has also been presented that Kavanagh claims there are others in the hierarchy above him, while his family has concerns the judge may be “overly influenced” by media interest in the case.
All three have admitted conspiring to import Class A and B drugs into the UK, while Canning faces an additional charge of gun possession.
Riel Karmy-Jones QC, prosecutor, said the inquiry was triggered after Gardaí seized a large quantity of firearms and drugs in Dublin in January 2017. The seizure targeted Kavanagh’s associate in Ireland, Declan Brady, known as “Mr Nobody”.
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) was then informed of affiliated logistics companies in the West Midlands, later linked to Vickery and Canning.
Investigators uncovered a major drug network that used industrial machinery to conceal “huge commercial quantities” of imported drugs before cash payments were returned in the same machines. Cannabis was labeled with the words “Rolex” and “Manchester United,” while cocaine was labeled “54.”
The court heard tracking devices linked to Vickery were used to monitor shipments as they made their way across Europe and to front companies in Wolverhampton and Wednesbury in the West Midlands.
Analysis of a GPS device gave a detailed look into the operation, showing it was activated in Poland in August 2017 and tracked as far as Dublin before arriving at Vickery’s home in Birmingham. It was then pinged at the Wednesbury unit before traveling to a Belgian company and Holland, later returning to Belgium and moving to Germany before being intercepted at the Port of Dover on 2 October.
Ms Karmy-Jones said the NCA had identified 23 separate imports and concluded that between September 2016 and October 2017 the criminal group imported between 600kg and 800kg of cannabis and 292kg of cocaine with a maximum total street value of almost £30 million (36 million euros).
She said police relied on detailed analysis of phones, CCTV, surveillance, GPS tracking devices and documentation.
The court heard encrypted equipment was seized but none from Kavanagh, linking him to the plot. Instead, his involvement was discovered through analysis of his co-defendant’s devices.
Ms Karmy-Jones said Thomas Kavanagh’s limited communications were consistent with him sitting “at the top” of the hierarchy and moving away from direct involvement.
The gang also used code names with Vickery known as “Jelly”, Canning as “Smiley”, and another associate, Martin Byrne, as “Scissors” or “Grumpy”.
Kavanagh was known by several aliases including “Plasma”, “The Gaffer” and “Mallet”.
The criminal network also used a series of code words on its encrypted devices to disguise its illicit dealings.
Kilos of cocaine were labeled “Phones,” “Ricky,” or “TNT”; Money was called “paper”; while the asphalt removal machines used were referred to as “Bens”.
The gang also used code words for locations, with Spain being called “The Hot” and the Netherlands being “The Flat”.
In March 2017, the gang communicated over 150 “phones” that prosecutors claimed related to 150kg of cocaine.
At the time of another delivery, Vickery sent his wife a picture of a group of men, including himself and Kavanagh, from New York, along with the message, “Haha, that’s worth the money.”
The group also showed that they were forensically aware, with a March 21, 2017 message that read, “Make sure you delete the messages constantly.”
In another memo, which prosecutors said illustrated Kavanagh’s superiority, Vickery wrote to Canning: “Mid-high opens at 8:30 am. If you can be sorted as soon as possible.
‘Bomber’ Kavanagh, originally from Dublin but with an address in Tamworth, has 16 previous convictions dating back to 1986 including burglary, gun possession and assault, while Vickery and Canning had none.
The court was told that Vickery was one step below “Bomber”, had an organizational role and delegated instructions to his brother-in-law.
A search of his home found almost €200,000 along with phones, encrypted devices, documentation for the trackers and 25kg of boric acid used to cut cocaine.
Canning, prosecutors said, played a crucial role in managing day-to-day operations, often traveling to mainland Europe “on the fly” to monitor shipments of drugs bound for the UK.
He was linked to the warehouse via CCTV, while his DNA was also found on Smith and Wesson’s recovered gun.
The court was also told that Kavanagh, who only admitted his involvement in the drugs conspiracy since March 2017, claimed there were no higher-level individuals on trial.
When the police searched his home, they seized several mobile phones, a number of weapons and over 40,000 euros in various currencies.
The gang also included German national Nicholas Wall, who was in direct contact with Kavanagh and oversaw the mainland operation through a legitimate carrier.
Another key member was a Dublin-based Pole named “Z” who organized GPS trackers and owned a shop in Barcelona to which drug payments were sent.
Also involved was Irishman Martin Byrne, who helped unload the drugs and load the cash.
His DNA was found on a gun found during the investigation, but he died of lung cancer in 2018.
Judge Martin Levett will sentence Kavanagh, Vickery and Canning on Monday in connection with the drug importation and money laundering conspiracy.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/crime/revealed-inner-workings-of-kinahan-man-bomber-kavanaghs-uk-drug-network-which-saw-36m-imported-in-a-year-41488476.html Revealed: Inside workings of Kinahan man “Bomber” Kavanagh’s UK drug network, which imported €36 million in one year