Three Irishmen in Dutch jail as police smash Kinahan cartel
Three Irishmen arrested in Amsterdam as part of the international operation to destroy the Kinahan cartel have been remanded in custody.
The men appeared in an Amsterdam court yesterday as Dutch authorities work on building a money laundering and drugs supply case against them.
Dublin man William O'Brien, who gardai believe has connections to the cartel and a number of other dangerous crime organisations, was one of three Irishmen arrested in the bust.
Footage obtained by the Herald showed O'Brien and three others being arrested by heavily-armed Dutch police on Wednesday afternoon.
They were handcuffed, blindfolded and bundled into police cars before being taken into custody.
At around the same time the arrests unfolded on the streets of Amsterdam, police stormed a heavily-fortified apartment, where they discovered a "bitcoin farm", €3m of cannabis, computers, cash and encrypted phones.
Yesterday, Dutch police released images of the bitcoin farm, along with some of the drugs and cash they seized.
O'Brien and two criminals from Limerick were among eight people arrested in the Dutch capital, in an operation which involved close co-operation with specialist gardai.
The more senior of the Limerick criminals handed over €600,000 to the Criminal Assets Bureau in 2014, after gardai found the money in a property linked to him.
The money launderer was officially warned of a threat against his life after the cash was seized, but it is believed he has linked up with criminal gangs in Dublin and Limerick since then - including the Kinahan cartel.
Five other men - one Belgian and four Dutch nationals - also appeared in court in Amsterdam as part of the investigation.
Convicted drug dealer O'Brien (35) is originally from Lombard Court, in the Pearse Street area of the capital, but moved to the Clonsilla area of west Dublin a number of years ago.
In July 2014, when he was living at an address in Beechfield Rise, he was lucky to escape with his life after he was shot three times through the property's front door in front of his young son.
He was hit in the chest, shoulder and hand when a gunman opened fire on him in the attempted murder.
He later underwent surgery to remove bullets, one of which was lodged in his abdomen.
O'Brien's car was previously burnt-out in June 2010, when it was parked outside a friend's house in East Wall.
In July 2011, O'Brien was jailed for three years for possession of cannabis plants worth more than €325,000, at Greenogue Business Park, Rathcoole, in July 2009. He was released from Mountjoy Prison in October 2013.
Gardai believe that since his release, O'Brien has associated with serious criminal elements, including members of the Hutch mob before its deadly feud with the Kinahan cartel, as well as a criminal closely linked to gangster Christopher 'Git' Russell.
However, he is understood to have been "trusted and on very friendly terms" with a number of senior Kinahan cartel players since he was a teenager.
He was considered one of the main drug suppliers in the Pearse Street area for a number of years.
"It is fair to say that he would have been very much trusted by senior cartel members, but O'Brien has connections to other criminal groupings as well," a source said last night.
It is expected that O'Brien, the two Limerick criminals and the five other men will next appear in an Amsterdam court in a fortnight, as Dutch police continue their investigation.
It is understood all eight suspects are being held in solitary confinement in prison.
This week's operation against the cartel in Amsterdam was linked to a massive drugs seizure by gardai, in which two men have now been charged here.
In a statement earlier this week, Assistant Commissioner John O' Driscoll, who is leading the investigation, said gardai will continue to target organised crime.
"There is a particular emphasis, firstly, on protecting life and tackling threat-to-life incidents," he said.
"But also, on targeting the sale of drugs and other illicit products and, importantly, targeting the financial gain and money laundering involved."