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'Blood money' probe thug also suspected of digging up grave of innocent Michael

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Joe and Helen Maughan at their son Michael’s desecrated grave

Joe and Helen Maughan at their son Michael’s desecrated grave

Joe and Helen Maughan at their son Michael’s desecrated grave

A gangster arrested during a money-laundering investigation linked to gangland hitman Robbie Lawlor's murder is also suspected of organising the desecration of an innocent man's grave.

The criminal, who is in his late 30s and a key member of the Owen Maguire faction, was released without charge from Portlaoise Garda Station yesterday after being arrested by armed gardaí on Tuesday.

Another gang member, a 21-year old 'gofer' for the gang, was also released, and a file on the case will now be prepared for the DPP.

The Herald can reveal the older suspect has for years been running a major drug-dealing network for the Maguire gang in Ardee, Co Louth.

Paralysed

He is one of paralysed mob boss Owen Maguire's most trusted associates, and has received official garda warnings of threats against his life even before the Drogheda feud kicked off in 2018.

"Previously, he was targeted by dissident republicans including the INLA for his drug-dealing activities in Co Louth and he even posted a GIM form, issued to him by gardaí on social media to impress his pals," a source told The Herald.

A Garda Information Mess-age (GIM) says officers are aware of a possible threat to a person's life or safety.

"He took it in his stride - this is an individual that thinks he's smarter than rival criminals and gardaí, but he got some fright when armed gardaí stormed his home on Tuesday morning," a source said.

"Whatever about his drug- dealing enterprises, his suspected involvement in digging up that grave can only be described as pure evil."

Gardaí believe the thug organised and may have been present when gangsters went to Bohernabreena Cemetery in Tallaght at 2am on August 18, 2016 and dug up the grave of a relative of a man their mob are suspected of murdering.

The grave of Michael 'Bobby' Maughan, whose brother Willie and Willie's girlfriend Ana Varslavane are feared to have been killed by the gang in April 2015, was targeted.

The incident happened the a day after Michael Maughan's father Joe appealed for information to help find the remains of Willie and pregnant Ana, who gardaí believe were murdered by associates of jailed gang boss Cornelius Price.

A 26-year-old Drogheda criminal was arrested last month in relation to the grave desecration, but was later released without charge.

He is now on different sides in the Drogheda feud from the two gangsters arrested this week for money-laundering.

The 21-year-old who was arrested is on bail and facing violent disorder charges.

Despite their release from custody yesterday, gardaí say the money-laundering investigation will continue.

"These two are key members of the Maguire gang who travelled to Laois to hand over the cash to two women two days after the murder of Lawlor," a senior source said.

Payment

Gardaí believe criminals linked to Owen Maguire, who Lawlor is suspected of maiming in a gun attack in July 2018, are the chief suspects for the murder of serial killer Lawlor in Belfast last April 4.

Only two days after he was shot dead, gardaí arr- ested two women with close links to Limerick's McCarthy/Dundon gang after members of the Maguire mob travelled from Drogheda to Clonkeen, Co Laois, to hand over €50,000 described as Lawlor blood money - part payment for the hitman's murder.