A DUBLIN businessman who brought in €250m worth of cocaine was today being quizzed by detectives in the capital.
The 31-year-old ‘Mr Clean’ provided the respectability to organise the shipment for international drugs smuggler George Mitchell, known as ‘the Penguin.’
The notorious trafficker was behind the massive cocaine haul. Detectives also suspect drugs godfather Christy Kinahan invested in the cargo, which was due to be split between half a dozen gangs here.
Today two suspects remained in garda custody, including the businessman, dubbed ‘Mr Clean' because he had no criminal convictions. A 42-year-old Nigerian who was the gang’s driver was also being questioned.
The businessman provided the cover to bring in the drugs in a shipment of wooden floors.
“This fella is a clean cut guy with a job who is a very valuable asset to serious gangs like Mitchell's crew,” a source revealed.
The cocaine arrived into Dublin Port almost two weeks ago and was being kept under surveillance at a west Dublin warehouse by detectives until officers decided to pounce yesterday morning.
Investigations have established that the gang had a safe house in Tallaght where the shipment was due to be divided up yesterday.
'Mr Clean' is also in garda custody today and he is understood to have been in direct communication with 'The Penguin' who has been based in Amsterdam since the garda crackdown after the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin.
'Mr Clean' is in custody as a result of a massive intelligence operation involving the gardai and the Revenue Commissioners.
"Mobile phone technology and other recent innovations played a major part in yesterday's successful operation."
The Herald understands that the 31-year-old's task was to divide up the 440 kilos of cocaine that was seized yesterday and then organise the distribution of it among gangs across the State.
The drugs were imported to Ireland in a container disguised as wooden flooring.
"While a lot of this cocaine was meant for the Irish market, it is very possible that some of it was going to be exported to other countries from here," said a source.
'Mr Clean' was arrested in Leixlip, Co Kildare yesterday morning while his Nigerian driver was picked up in Tallaght in possession of 50 kilos of cocaine.
The rest of the drugs were recovered at a warehouse in Blanchardstown. Homes were also searched in Cabra and Lucan with paperwork, including bank records, removed for forensic examination.
The consignment is not as big as the 1,500kg of cocaine found as it was being smuggled ashore off a boat at Dunlough Bay, Co Cork, in 2007 or another 1,500kg found by the Irish authorities off Mizen Head in 2008.
But gardai say that it is the biggest drugs seizure to ever happen on mainland Ireland.
The bust was part of Operation Agon -- a year-long probe into drug trafficking by organised criminals.
The man suspected of being the brains behind the operation -- George 'The Penguin' Mitchell (61) -- is from Ballyfermot and is a cousin of Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell.
Also suspected of involvement is Christy Kinahan (54) -- originally from Dublin's south inner city and considered to be Ireland's wealthiest criminal. Operation Shovel, the European police crackdown that emanated from the work of the Garda National Drugs Unit, dismantled his multi-million euro empire but sources say that he has been "back in action" for many months now.
The seizure of such a huge quantity of drugs has led to speculation that it will lead to gangland reprisals in the coming weeks as gangs turn on each other after losing such a large amount of money. Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and his force, along with Revenue's Customs service, were to be greatly commended for the extraordinarily significant drugs seizure.
"I express my deep appreciation and support for their work on my own behalf, that of the Government and, in particular, on behalf of communities who have to live with the evil which the deadly trade in illicit drugs causes," he said.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said the record seizure is a very significant day for law enforcement in this country.
He added investigators have been working on the case for several months. Commissioner Callinan also said his officers believe the organised crime group behind the operation is local with links to the international underworld. He said investigators would be working with international partners to discover where the drugs came from.