VETERAN criminal Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh has been caged for 21 years for masterminding a major European cocaine and cannabis smuggling operation.
Kavanagh – described by Spanish police as having "equal status" as Daniel Kinahan in the Kinahan crime empire – will serve half of the 21-year sentence before being released on licence.
The National Crime Agency estimates that the group imported drugs with a street value of more than €35million into the UK.
Judge Martyn Levett, sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court, said the operation was of a "commercial scale" and that he had "no doubt that the successful importations would have continued" were it not for the authorities intercepting a shipment at Dover in 2017.
Thomas Kavanagh, 54, originally from Dublin but living at Tamworth, Staffordshire, Gary Vickery, 39, of Solihull, and 43-year-old Daniel Canning, who also has an address in Solihull, all admitted at an earlier hearing to conspiring to import class A and B drugs, and money laundering.
Kavanagh, who prosecutors described as "at the head of the organisation", was jailed for 21 years.
He blew a kiss from the secure dock to family members sat in the public gallery before he was led to the cells.
Vickery, who was "immediately beneath" Kavanagh, was jailed for 20 years.
Canning, who was "subordinate to Vickery", and also admitted possessing a firearm and ammunition, was jailed for 19 years and six months.
He looked at the ceiling as his sentence was read out.
The three men initially pleaded guilty to offences in July 2020.
Most read in The Sun
Girlfriend, 23, who 'murdered young dad' pictured as family pay tribute
Susanna Reid & Richard Madeley in fiery clash as he DEFENDS Will Smith
Will Smith 'SLAPS' Chris Rock on Oscars stage & curses comedian out
Regan Gascoigne wins Dancing on Ice after beating Brendan Cole
Judge Mr Levett said that a "business was being used as a cover for the importations and premises were leased I suspect for that very purpose".
He adding that there was "a very substantial gain to be made".
Drugs would come into the UK hidden inside machinery, which would exit the country filled with cash, in what the judge described as a "carousel of drugs in and cash out".
Gardai in Ireland seized documents identifying a UK-based freight transport company in January 2017, while making a number of arrests in Dublin in which they seized "a significant quantity of firearms and class A drugs", prosecutor Riel Karmy-Jones had told the court.
The NCA began an investigation and in October 2017 customs officials at Dover seized a consignment of 15kg of cocaine and 200kg of cannabis hidden inside two large Tarmac removal machines, the barrister said.
The judge said that "very significant efforts were taken to avoid detection", noting that a gun was recovered from a lead-lined compartment inside a transformer at an industrial unit.
The judge said the trio of defendants had "conspired together" with a fourth man, Martin Byrne, who died before the case reached court.
He ordered for the seized drugs, firearms and ammunition to be destroyed, and said that there will be a Proceeds of Crime hearing at a later date.
Kate Anderson, deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor of the CPS International Justice and Organised Crime Division, said: "This organised crime group imported millions of pounds worth of dangerous drugs into the country, concealing them in machinery in a bid to evade detection.
"They showed no regard for the communities they were putting at risk and pleaded guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence showing their part in this illicit operation.
"Cases like this demonstrate our commitment to disrupting organised criminal activity – and ensuring they face justice."
Kinahan lieutenant Kavanagh shipped the drugs hauls in plastic wrappers branded with ‘Rolex' and 'Manchester United', it emerged last week.
The three men were brought down by a detailed and forensic investigation by the National Crime Agency following a series of arrests by the Gardai in Dublin in January 2017 when with firearms and Class A drugs were recovered.
Riel Karmy-Jones QC prosecuting, said those arrests led to focus on the operations of an organised gang, based in the West Midlands in 2016, 2017 and its importation of cocaine and cannabis into the UK from mainland Europe.
Documents linked to the arrests led to transport company Ebrex Ltd and FAR logistics, based in Wolverhampton.
NCA uncovered that drugs were being brought into the UK from mainland Europe and concealed in machinery.
Once in the UK the machinery had the drugs removed, with the machinery then re-loaded with cash that was carried back into Europe to pay for the cocaine and cannabis.
In October 2017, a shipment of cocaine, with a purity of 75 per cent, into Dover was seized with a street value of £1.2million.
There was also 200kg of cannabis with a street value of a whopping £2m. Investigations by NCA officers revealed that there were 22 more importations.
Officers identified ringleader Kavanagh, Vickery, and Canning, who were all arrested and charged.
Both Vickery and Canning had no previous whereas Kavanagh had a long list of previous dating back to 1985, including convictions for burglary, possession of firearms and fraud.
Mobile phones and the specialist encrypted devices were seized and helped officers build a concrete case agains the men.
Vickery’s iPhone revealed his nickname was ‘’Jelly’ whilst Canning went by the name of ‘Smiley’.
Kavanagh also had a series of nicknames and was referred to as The Gaffer.
Byrne was known as both ’Scissors and Grumpy’.
Officers spotted the gang were using codewords for drugs, money and machinery.
Cocaine was known as ‘ricky’ with kilo blocks of the Class-A called ‘phones’ whilst ‘jackets; referred to flowering cannabis.
Locations used by the gang were also given nicknames with their Spanish setup referred to as ’the hot’ and 'the flat' meaning their place in the Netherlands.
Kavanagh, of Tamworth, was a high-ranking member of the notorious Kinahan organised crime group, acting as the UK figurehead.
He, alongside Canning and Vickery, both of Solihull, had admitted conspiring to import class A and B drugs, and money laundering, while Canning also admitted possessing a firearm and ammunition.
Source: Read Full Article