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Phone hack nabbed 'logistics manager' for Irish drug gangs

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Haulier Thomas Maher was involved at the top of organised crime and linked to major drug gangs in Ireland

Haulier Thomas Maher was involved at the top of organised crime and linked to major drug gangs in Ireland

PA

Haulier Thomas Maher was involved at the top of organised crime and linked to major drug gangs in Ireland

A haulage boss convicted in the UK on drugs and money laundering charges is well-known to gardaí as a "logistics manager" for Ireland's main drug gangs, the Herald can reveal.

The conviction yesterday is the first of an Irish criminal linked to police agencies compromising the EncroChat service in June.

This was previously a secure encrypted phone messaging service used by international organised crime groups, including the Kinahan cartel, but international police forces have cracked it.

Manslaughter

Liverpool Crown Court heard yesterday that Thomas Maher (39), who is originally from Clara, Co Offaly, was involved in smuggling €1.5m worth of cocaine into Ireland and moving nearly €1m in cash out of the country.

Gardaí said the father-of three was a "logistics manager" for all of the country's main drugs gangs.

He was previously arrested by UK police but released without charge last October after being questioned about manslaughter and conspiracy to traffic people in connection with the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in a truck container in Essex.

The Herald can also reveal that Maher, who has been living in the UK for years, was arrested for possession of €250,000 worth of drugs in Newbridge, Co Kildare, 10 years ago. He and another man picked up by gardai were later released.

However, his luck has finally run out, and yesterday he was warned that he faces a lengthy jail term when he is sentenced on December 1.

Maher pleaded guilty to four counts of conspiracy to commit a crime abroad, spanning last March 28 to May 11.

They included two charges of conspiracy to import class A drugs into Ireland and two of transferring criminal prop- erty into Ireland, €300,000 in April and €600,000 in May.

Maher was co-ordinating a transport network to facilitate drug importations into the UK via Ireland, and the transport of money from Ireland to Holland using encrypted EncroChat phones.

He was caught as part of a joint operation between the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB) and the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA), during which officers accessed his encrypted phone messages.

"This individual has connections to all the major drugs gangs here," a senior source told the Herald.

He basically worked for them all by using his haulage expertise to get drug shipments into the country and cash to the pay for them out of Ireland.

"From very humble beginnings in his home town of Clara, where he comes from a decent family, he was living with all the trappings of his ill-gotten wealth in the UK," the source added.

"That involved owning top-of-the-range sports cars, expensive foreign holidays and an upmarket home, but it's all over for him now."

Grievous

In recent years, father-of-three Maher became involved with the top levels of organised crime in Europe as his haulage business continued to grow from its base in Warrington.

Liverpool Crown Court heard yesterday that he will not be prosecuted on a separate charge of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm to Ronan Hughes in Ireland between last April 21 and April 29.

Monaghan man Hughes pleaded guilty last month to 39 counts of manslaughter in relation to the deaths of the migrants in Essex last year.

Garda Assistant Commiss- ioner John O'Driscoll said gardaí and the NCA have developed a "productive relationship" and their combined powers are preventing those involved in organised and serious crime from exploiting international borders.