Cartel 'rocket man' admits possession of 16 guns and ammo
A major criminal known as Rocket Man, who gardai believe has been one of the main players in the deadly Kinahan cartel, has pleaded guilty to serious firearms offences.
Jonathan Harding (44) pleaded guilty at the Special Criminal Court yesterday to the possession of a cache of firearms in a business park in Dublin.
Harding, of McNeill Court, Sallins, Co Kildare, admitted the possession of 10 revolvers, four pistols, a sub-machine gun, an assault rifle and various ammunition magazines.
He was found with the cache last January 24, at a unit in Greenogue Business Park, Rathcoole.
The bust was one of the most significant against the cartel by gardai this year, and officers said the seizure seriously impacted its capacity to murder its rivals.
Harding's co-accused, James Walsh (33), with addresses at Wheatfield Avenue and Neilstown Drive, both Clondalkin, had previously pleaded guilty to the same offence.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the three-judge court, remanded Harding in custody until next January 11, when he and Walsh will both be sentenced.
Another co-accused, Declan Brady (51), of The Park, Wolstan Abbey, Celbridge, Co Kildare, was remanded in custody until December 8, when his case is listed for mention again.
Mr Brady is charged with the unlawful possession of five revolvers, 20 rounds of ammunition and a silencer last January 24 at the unit in Greenogue Business Park.
The Herald can reveal that convicted drug dealer Harding is a close pal of cartel kingpin Liam Byrne and has been heavily involved in organised crime for two decades.
He escaped charges after he was arrested when officers seized two loaded rocket launchers in one of their first-ever operations against the cartel in May 2010.
The disposable launchers, which were seized along with a cocaine shipment in a raid, can be fired from the shoulder and disposed of after being used only once.
The weapons had been stored by the cartel in a rented shed located at the rear of a block of five industrial units on the Clane road, at Longtown, Straffan, Co Kildare.
Armed officers from the organised crime unit raided the premises and found the rockets, one of which was identified as a Russian-made RPG-22, an AK assault rifle and nine kilos of cocaine, with a street value of between €700,000 and €800,000, hidden inside barrels.
The raid was part of Operation Lamp, which has been targeting members of the Kinahan cartel.
In December 2004, Harding was jailed for six years after being caught with almost €800,000 of heroin and cannabis.
He is considered one of the capital's most prominent gangland criminals.
While January's massive seizure in which Harding was snared was one of the first against the cartel this year, it proved to be only one of dozens.
In the latest high-profile bust, four major league gangsters were arrested last Monday night as they plotted to murder gang rival Gary Hanley.