Senior Kinahan employee Thomas “Bomber” Kavanagh sentenced to 21 years in prison for running a €36 million drug trafficking network

The ‘UK captain’ of the Kinahan cartel has been sentenced to 21 years in prison for running a criminal network that trafficked €36m worth of drugs in a single year.

Homas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh, 54, was at the forefront of the ‘sophisticated’ operation which imported into the UK commercial shipments of cocaine and cannabis hidden in industrial plants.

The criminal group operated in seven countries, using code names to do clandestine deals and using GPS devices to track drug shipments and cash payments.

Three key members of the gang were sentenced today at Ipswich Crown Court to a total of 60 years in prison for conspiracy to import Class A and B drugs into England and money laundering offences.

“Bomber” Kavanagh, codenamed “The Gaffer,” received the longest sentence for his role at the top of the network, serving 21 years in prison.

His deputy, Gary Vickery (39), oversaw the ongoing operations of the criminal enterprise and passed instructions to his subordinates. He received a 20-year prison sentence.

Vickery’s brother-in-law Daniel Canning, 43, who was supposed to travel across continental Europe to monitor broadcasts, was sentenced to 19.5 years in prison, among other things, for possession of a firearm.

All three men are originally from Dublin but lived in the Birmingham area and will serve half their sentences in prison and the rest on licence.

Judge Martyn Levett said the drug importation case was one of the most serious to come before the court, with each defendant being a “mastermind” in the syndicate.

Aggravating factors included the significant cash profit to be made, the significant effort expended to avoid detection and that the successful operation would have continued had the shipment not been intercepted in October 2017.

The defendants were also ordered to disclose their worldwide assets at a later date.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) today described Thomas Kavanagh as “a senior member of the Kinahan Cartel, an organized crime group synonymous with violent crime. He was her most important man in Britain.”

Deputy Director Matt Horne also said: “Through its criminal connections abroad, his organization was able to organise, import and distribute many millions of pounds worth of drugs.

“These men thought they were untouchable, but we were able to systematically dismantle the group and prove that wasn’t the case.

The inner workings of the gang’s drug network was exposed in court, with details of their transportation routes, the covert nature of their shipments and the code names they used to operate under the radar.

The investigation was sparked after Gardaí seized a large quantity of firearms and drugs in Dublin in January 2017. The seizure was aimed at Kavanagh’s associate in Ireland, Declan Brady, known as “Mr Nobody”.

The NCA was then informed of associated logistics companies in the West Midlands, later linked to Vickery and Canning.

Investigators began surveillance and uncovered a major drug network that used industrial machinery to conceal “huge commercial quantities” of imported drugs before returning the cash payments in the same equipment in a “merry-go-round” operation.

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.

The gang had connections in France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain and the West Midlands.

The drugs network was foiled when drugs worth €4million were found hidden in a asphalt stripping machine impounded at the Port of Dover.

The NCA identified 22 other imports and it was concluded that between October 2016 and October 2017 the criminal group imported between 600kg and 800kg of cannabis and 292kg of cocaine with a maximum total value of almost £30 million (€36 million).

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 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 code words in communications to disguise its illicit dealings.

Kilos of cocaine were labeled “Phones,” “Ricky,” or “TNT”; Money was called “paper”; while the asphalt stripping machines used were referred to as “Bens” or “Sister”.

The gang also used code words for locations, with Spain being called “The Hot” and the Netherlands being “The Flat”.

At the time of delivery, Vickery sent his wife from New York a picture of a group of men including himself and Kavanagh 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.”

An email from Kavanagh, sent out a week before the Dover bankruptcy, read: “Ta tucked into sis and jelly bon for sure in a few hours, didn’t want to wake him from beauty sleep this morning :)”.

Evidence was presented that “Bomber” has 16 previous convictions dating back to 1986, including burglary, possession of a gun and assault, and three years for possession of a concealed stun gun, when the NCA searched his home while Vickery and Canning had none had.

The court was told that Vickery was one step below Kavanagh, 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 played a crucial role in managing day-to-day operations, often traveling “on the fly” to mainland Europe to monitor shipments of drugs bound for the UK.

He was connected to the warehouse via CCTV, while his DNA was also found where Smith and Wesson’s gun was found.

The court was told that Kavanagh maintained that there were no senior officials on the court.

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 mysterious Pole living in Dublin, referred to as “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. Senior Kinahan employee Thomas “Bomber” Kavanagh sentenced to 21 years in prison for running a €36 million drug trafficking network

Fry Electronics Team

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