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Sunday, 7 September 2008

Gardai believe convicted murderer Brian Meehan masterminded the importation of the guns found in Dublin and Belfast

Gardai believe convicted murderer Brian Meehan masterminded the importation of the guns found in Dublin and Belfast and that those weapons were bought from the Amsterdam wholesale operation.Senior detectives say Irish criminals have bought guns from the Dutch gunrunners, who had clients throughout western Europe, on a number of occasions in the past.However, gardai have stressed that there is nothing to suggest that the arsenal discovered by Dutch police on Tuesday was destined for Ireland.
"There is any number of criminal gangs around Europe who could have been waiting for the delivery of these guns," said a senior officer.PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde said yesterday that if the weapons had been destined for Ireland, the cache, which included high-powered Glock semi-automatic pistols and Steyr submachine guns, was large enough to start a war.Meanwhile, four people, three men and a woman have appeared before a judge in Rotterdam, charged in connection with the Amsterdam arms find. They were arrested in Amsterdam and a nearby town within hours of the seizure near Dublin airport. They have been remanded in custody for two weeks, and will then appear before a closed session of court. Under Dutch court procedures it is unlikely that would come to trial before November at the earliest. Brian Meehan, a drug dealer who is serving a life sentence in Portlaoise prison for murdering Veronica Guerin, a crime reporter, in 1996. Meehan, an associate of the main organiser, had helped to broker the deal using a mobile phone smuggled into prison. “Meehan’s role in the conspiracy was to act as a guarantor between all the parties. His problem was that he is a prisoner and had to do his business over a phone, which had been compromised,” said one intelligence source. “Once the main organiser’s phone was compromised, it was over. We were able to trace everything.” The gang was put under surveillance by undercover police when the arms and drugs shipment arrived in Belfast last week. At the last minute, the mastermind arranged to deliver part of the consignment to Limerick and organised a courier to collect 27 guns, 20kg of heroin and herbal cannabis from a location in Belfast. Armed gardai and surveillance units tailed the vehicle used to collect the contraband from Belfast to Dublin and it was stopped on Tuesday in Swords. Inside the vehicle officers found four types of firearms including Glock 19C semi-automatic pistols, with magazines and speed-loaders. There were also Glock 19 semi-automatic pistols, Beretta semi-automatic pistols with sound suppressors, Smith & Wesson revolvers and ammunition. More than a dozen shrink-wrapped blocks of heroin and about eight bags of herbal cannabis were also found. The value of the drugs was €4m. The other police agencies then moved into action. Another 14 handguns were seized by the PSNI in Belfast. About 1,000 rounds of ammunition for the weapons was also found.
The Dutch police raided a factory in the Oud-West area of Amsterdam where the weapons had been collected that had been under surveillance for several months. The raid yielded 165 firearms. They were hidden in small safes and concrete posts and behind wooden panels. A money counter, computers, mobile phones and documents were also seized. Almost all of those involved in the conspiracy were arrested, with the exception of Meehan. His mobile phone was not found in a search of his cell. His involvement in the operation brings into question the use of telephone intercepts in criminal investigations. The justice department said it is reviewing the law on the use of surveillance and telephone intercepts, or TIs, following the recent collapse of several prosecutions linked to organised crime. In Ireland, bugged telephone conversations must be treated as “intelligence” only by gardai and cannot be used as evidence in criminal trials. Garda headquarters claim that allowing wiretaps to become admissible in court would give away “trade secrets” and alert criminals to the extent of police eavesdropping.



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