Gardai who foiled cartel hit nearly caught criminal with loaded gun
One of the country's most dangerous criminals narrowly avoided being caught with a loaded firearm during a massive garda operation, it has emerged.
Around 100 officers were involved in the lengthy investigation on Monday, which led to four dangerous criminals being arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.
Two of the thugs were caught with a loaded Beretta fitted with a silencer on Philipsburgh Avenue, while another two high-profile criminals were detained in the south inner city.
They were on their way to take out Hutch gang associate Gary Hanley (28) when they were intercepted.
Further details of one of the most significant operations in the State's history emerged last night.
The Herald can now reveal that a 38-year-old thug regarded as one of the most dangerous individuals in the country was moments from being caught red-handed with the loaded gun.
A surveillance operation uncovered how the firearm to be used in the murder plot was handed over on the Old Finglas Road, Glasnevin.
The criminal, who is a suspect in up to 10 murders, was travelling in the vehicle with the hitman and getaway driver as they were en route to carry out the shooting.
However, the thug got out of the van just moments before members of the elite Emergency Response Unit (ERU) stopped the vehicle transporting the loaded firearm.
Despite not being caught at the scene in possession of the handgun and ammunition, the thug was arrested moments later as he drove in a vehicle near his home in Christchurch, Dublin 8.
It has also emerged that Hanley came across the scene just moments after armed gardai arrested the hit team on their way to kill him.
"Hanley bizarrely walked past just minutes after the ERU hard-stopped the hit team," a source said.
"He asked one of the officers 'Was this for me?' and was told to get himself home."
The convicted criminal was warned last month of the threat against his life, but he refused to leave the country.
Hanley has more than 30 previous convictions for offences including drug dealing, serious assault and other crimes.
He was once brutally assaulted in Mountjoy Prison by a convicted killer.
Now a feared enforcer, he was convicted of an armed robbery when he was only 15.
Sources said he had "risen through the ranks" within the Hutch gang after being released from his latest jail sentence around a year and a half ago.
Gardai were last night continuing to hunt for a 33-year-old cartel associate who they want to question over the murder conspiracy.
Four criminals are also continuing to be questioned over their suspected involvement in the elaborate murder plot.
Those detained include the 38-year-old hitman for hire who was only recently released from prison.
Another man being quizzed is a 35-year-old criminal who is a high-ranking member of the Kinahan cartel.
This individual was arrested at his apartment in the south inner city by members of the Armed Support Unit. Investigators suspect that he was the person responsible for organising the hit.
It emerged last night that the gangster had become an "organiser" within the cartel's operations.
Also arrested was a 23-year-old thug who previously survived an attempt on his life, as well as a 37-year-old career criminal who was only recently released from prison after serving a sentence for explosives and firearms offences.
This drug addict was previously busted with the high-ranking cartel member.
A 39-year-old man who lives in the leafy Blackrock area is also suspected of being involved in the murder plot.
He has been linked to the Kinahan cartel for a number of years, and his home was searched as part of the probe into Monday night's foiled murder.
Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll said the operation was one of the most significant carried out in the history of the State that didn't involve subversives.
He also paid tribute to the officers who were involved.
"Clearly with an intervention like this there is a serious level of risk assessment that takes place," said Mr O'Driscoll.
"You have members of An Garda Siochana putting their own lives at risk,"
He also warned of more arrests. "There are people whose doors we will be knocking at," he said.