It was to all intents and purposes an ordinary redbrick Dublin suburban home with trimmed hedges and high gates. However, in reality it was so much more.
It stood as a testament to the status within organised crime of the man who lived there. It signified the wealth and power associated with that man as a criminal gang leader. It served as a symbol of a criminal organisation that believed it could do what it wanted, and for many years, did.
The house at number 2 Raleigh Square was the home of Liam Byrne, the leader of one of Dublin's most powerful organised crime groups. It was bought for €250,000 in 2011 by Liam's sister, Maria Byrne, but Liam lived in it with his partner and two children.
Liam paid rent of €850 a month into Maria's account and almost another €750,000 was spent on renovations. The house has a bar, a gym, a home cinema, a jacuzzi and and a playground out the back.
It has walk-in wardrobes, Italian tiles, high definition televisions and electronic equipment and expensive furnishings and lighting.
The walls of one of the rooms, where gang members would meet and socialise, were laden with framed sports memorabilia including several signed Liverpool football club jerseys, the racing driver Michael Schumacher's hat, a pair of Mike Tyson's gloves and a framed photo of Liam with the boxer Marvin Haggler. There was also all sorts of refreshments including bottles of vintage champagne.
Security was also a major factor. The house had bulletproof windows, electronic gates and a sophisticated CCTV system with remote controlled cameras on the walls outside. Work on the house was carried out without planning permission but no-one objected. 2 Raleigh Square had everything a so-called crime boss might require.
This week the Criminal Assets Bureau confiscated the house. Maria Byrne agreed to hand it over, along with almost €27,000 in a bank account. It marked the end of an investigation that has been going on for years that has exposed the structure, the finances, the frauds and the personnel behind the largest and most dangerous criminal gang in the country.
It also shows how the business of organised crime works at the highest levels in Ireland and abroad.
The Hutch-Kinahan feud
It has been tragically clear for the past three years just how deadly the ongoing feud between the Hutch and Kinahan criminal gangs has been. 19 people have so far been shot dead. The most recent victim, Eric Fowler, was murdered just three days before Christmas last.
Some of the killers have been convicted and jailed for life. Other suspects for various feud-related crimes are before the courts. The Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau has saved the lives of 59 people by stopping and arresting hitmen with loaded guns on their way to shoot people.
Ninety-two guns, including pistols and machine guns, over 3,000 rounds of ammunition, €150m worth of drugs and €8.3m in cash have been seized. Six people have been convicted of four of the feud murders, five are serving life in prison in Ireland, one is in jail in Spain but still the feud shows no sign of abating.
The Hutch-Kinahan feud dramatically escalated in February 2016 when David Byrne was shot dead in the Regency Hotel. David was a senior figure in the "Byrne Organised Crime Group" which is in reality the Dublin branch of the "Kinahan Organised Crime Group", one of the wealthiest and most dangerous criminal organisations in the world.
Patrick Hutch had been charged with the murder of David Byrne, but the nephew of the man known as 'The Monk' walked free from the Special Criminal Court last week when the State dropped all charges against him.
The Byrne family complained loudly and bitterly outside the court. David's grieving mother and father, Sadie and James, his sister Maria and Kelly Quinn, David's girlfriend, stood outside and said the family did not get justice.
However, the Criminal Assets Bureau has been investigating the gang led in Dublin by Sadie and James' other son, Liam. This has resulted in the gang losing 25 high end and luxury cars, three electric bikes and a dune buggy, four Rolex and Breitling watches, two platinum and gold diamond rings, four wads of cash totalling over €26,000, another €26,730 from a bank account and three houses in Dublin worth over €1m.
The case has exposed not only the gang members but also their associates, their partners and their parents. Sadie and James Byrne, Maria Byrne and Kelly Quinn are among the 11 people named in the High Court judgment which allowed the CAB seize these assets under Proceeds of Crime Legislation.
The case has also served to highlight the lifestyles, the fraudulent businesses, the money laundering schemes, the international connections and how the gang amassed millions from organised crime.
The Byrne Organised Crime Gang
CAB's main target was 36-year-old Liam Byrne from Crumlin, the leader of the Byrne Organised Crime Gang (BOCG) in Dublin. A career criminal, the High Court was told he was heavily involved in drug trafficking and violent crime and described the evidence of this as "extensive, detailed and largely uncontroverted." He has strong connections to international criminality in the UK, Spain and the Netherlands.
Byrne's gang is also heavily involved in the Hutch-Kinahan feud and was previously involved in the Crumlin-Drimnagh gang feud which cost 16 lives. The gang originated in Dublin but now has interests in Spain, the Netherlands, South America and Dubai. Its business is gun and drugs crime, or as the High Court calls it "the importation and distribution of controlled drugs and firearms within this jurisdiction".
The gang was previously led and directed by the convicted drug dealer Christy Kinahan (Snr).
He left Ireland and the gang became a multi-million Euro crime corporation, hence the name Kinahan Organised Crime Gang (KOCG) used in the High Court. Christy ran its operations from the Costa del Sol in Spain but the murder of David Byrne changed all that.
Christy realised he and his family were now not only under threat from the rival Hutch Organised Crime Gang (HOCG) but also under severe pressure from the authorities in Spain, who were working closely with the gardaí. Christy moved to the United Arab Emirates and is now living in Dubai.
CAB says the day-to-day operations of his drug trafficking business are now being "managed and controlled" by his sons, Christopher Junior and Daniel Kinahan. The gang "has associations that facilitate international criminal activity in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America".
Liam Byrne is a "close and trusted associate" of Daniel Kinahan. They attend social, sporting and family events together. Daniel was at the christening of Liam's child in June 2015. Members of the British branch of the organised crime group were also at the christening, to socialise with and pay their respects to the gang leader. Daniel Kinahan was also among the mourners paying his respects at David Byrne's funeral.
Two of them named in the High Court as Maurice Sines and James Crickmore brought luxury cars, a Rolls Royce and a Mercedes Jeep, from the UK to Ireland to escort the gang leader and his family around Dublin during the celebrations.
In spite of its international connections, the Byrne Organised Crime Group is rooted in tight, close family and geographical bonds in Dublin's south city. Until the Garda investigations began to get results they lived beside each other in the Raleigh Square, Kildare Road and Windmill Road block in Crumlin. The enclave is in the words of the Criminal Assets Bureau, the "stronghold out of which the BOCG operates".
The house at 2 Raleigh Square which the CAB seized this week was at the centre of the gang's stronghold. Liam Byrne lived there in luxury with his partner Simoan McEnroe and their two children. His mother and father, James and Sadie, also live in Raleigh Square as did their late son David before he was shot dead at the Regency Hotel.
David's house is diagonally across from that of his parents. His girlfriend Kelly Quinn was also targeted by CAB and named in the High Court judgement, as was Liam's sister Maria Byrne who lives in a house on Windmill Road behind her parents' home. Liam's home had also been registered in her name and it was she who agreed this week to hand it over to the Criminal Assets Bureau.
Sean Mc Govern is Liam Byrne's "trusted lieutenant" in the gang. He lived with his partner Anita Freeman a few hundred metres away from the gang leader on Kildare Road in a newly renovated house. He was in the Regency Hotel in February 2016 with David Byrne when the murder took place. He was also shot and injured, but managed to escape the gunmen. He refused to co-operate with the garda investigation.
Liam Roe, the gang leader's first cousin, was also found to be a senior gang member as was Darren Foster, a convicted drug trafficker. CAB discovered that Foster was involved in laundering the gang's money and had on several occasions registered its cars in his name.
The High Court said it was clear that Foster's involvement in the gang "was of such value to substantiate the group's investments in him." Any "alleged income" he had it said could not sustain the lifestyle which he and his wife Jennifer Foster had maintained to date.
The car scam
The High Court found that the Byrne Organised Crime Gang has established businesses which do not operate as legitimate businesses should and are in fact a cover for laundering money earned from crime. This was facilitated through a system that operated through car dealerships and other businesses in Ireland and the UK.
In June 2013, Liam Byrne set up LS Active Car Sales at Unit 3E in the Bluebell Business Park on the Naas Road in Dublin. His lieutenant Sean Mc Govern was appointed a director of the company. However, LS did not operate as a normal car sales business because its cars were not for sale. Instead they were for the exclusive use of the gang members, their partners and girlfriends, associates and family. In the 29 days before the CAB raided the business in March of 2016, not one car was sold.
The gangsters had unlimited access to top of the range BMWs, Mercedes, Audis, Volkswagens, Lexus and Land Rover cars, as well as high powered motorbikes such as the Buell 1100, the KTM 650, Suzuki 600 and the BMW G650X. Three electric bikes and a dune buggy were also stored in the car showroom. The business was also used for various gang member meetings or crime summits.
The gang members were able to drive the cars and motorbikes all over the country without ever buying or owning them. They were the de facto owners without having to answer any questions about the car or take any responsibility for them. They were under Garda surveillance and regularly stopped and questioned, particularly Liam Byrne and McGovern. They were however able to say that they were driving the vehicles "on a sale and return basis from another garage operating with LS Active Car Sales".
A "sale and return" system is an arrangement whereby dealerships lend cars to show to prospective customers. In a legitimate business, such loans are short-term. However in the case of LS Active Car Sales the loan continued for weeks, even though the car remained the recorded property of the seller.
When stopped the gangsters told the gardaí the car was on loan from another dealer and they were thinking of buying it. The gangsters would never buy the car and by the time the gardaí checked out their story the car would have disappeared only to be replaced by another. And when the other garage was checked out it was also found that it was being "run by a criminal element."
Illegitimate UK businesses were supplying luxury cars and high-powered motorbikes to the Byrne Organised Crime Gang. However these always remained registered in the UK company's name, even though the UK suppliers had long since parted with them. One example is that of a BMW 430 worth around €45, 000. Liam Byrne and Freddie Thompson were photographed driving around in that car while it was still registered in the UK. Both were wearing bullet proof vests.
Thompson was a senior figure in the organised crime gang. It was both a shock and a major blow to its organisation when he was caught and convicted for one of the feud related killings. He is currently serving life in prison for the murder of David 'Daithi' Douglas.
The gangsters also simply registered the cars they used in the names of other people while continuing to drive them. These people also supported the ruse that the cars were being held on a sale or return basis by registering ownership in false names. When CAB checked out these owners they found that most of them could not afford to run let alone buy a top of the range BMW or Mercedes. They also found many of "the owners" did not even have driving licences.
A garage was also available to the gangsters to maintain and keep the cars clean for themselves, their associates, their partners and family members.
The slush fund
A spurious business was established on paper which involved buying cars from an unknown source with money also from an unknown source. A forensic examination was unable to establish how 22 cars sold by the company were initially acquired. There were no purchase records but the money received was credited to the company bank account.
The business had a turnover of €369,930 from the sale of these cars. Other people were used to import the cars but the reality was Liam Byrne was bringing them in. The gang was using these people "to front the importation....by providing the cash to pay Vehicle Registration Tax".
The High Court called the business the criminal gang's "slush fund". Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said she was satisfied that "a routine series of such transactions is used to obfuscate the beneficial ownership of the vehicles and frustrate inquiries raised by the authorities."
Some of the cars registered to LS Active Car Sales were also found to have been sold outside the business accounts of the company. The source of the money was traced to people acting for the criminal gang or found to be cash lodgements from an unknown source. The company was dissolved on 20 January 2016 but the business continued to operate, this time as Active Recovery Services. Mc Govern was no longer registered as a director but an employee.
Cars as currency for flights and five star hotels
The Byrne gang also used the mechanisms of the motor trade as "a trading and alternate currency system." The cars and motorbikes represented currency among criminals and were moved between organised crime groups. "The ownership was recorded outside the groupings."
PriceWaterhouseCooper was hired by the Criminal Assets Bureau to analyse the business methods and accounts of Byrne's car business. It discovered almost €40,000 (€39,325.00) was spent on flights at a time when the company imported just one car from the UK. In addition thirty five payments were made to exclusive five star hotels around Dublin city totalling €13,026.47.
The gang members also had "an elaborate pattern of international travel" and a unique way of paying for it. A relative worked in a travel company and booked flights and accommodation for them. Simoan McEnroe, Byrne's partner was involved in the bookings and once arranged, a man identified only as "Lee" would arrive at the travel shop on a moped and pay for the business trips and holidays in cash.
The CAB targeted the Byrne gang not only because of the dramatic increase in violence and murder in Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Spain following the murder of David Byrne, but also because their assets simply did not match any form of claimed legitimate income. Along with the house at Raleigh Square, CAB confiscated two other homes.
Senior gang member Liam Roe bought a house in Grangeview Road in Clondalkin on 29 September 2000 for €119,000. The deal was financed through an insurance claim of €350,000 following a road accident. Byrne then bought the house off Liam Roe for €270,000 with thirty-year mortgage of €150,000.
It's not known where Byrne got the remaining €120,000. It didn't show up in either his or his cousin Liam Roe's bank account and Byrne refused to explain the discrepancy. "It was," Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said, "acquired in suspicious circumstances by individuals with a broad background in criminal wrongdoing." She concluded that the house "was clearly undersold by a sum of in or around €120,000 and the mortgage on it secured under false pretences."
Byrne claimed in 2006 he worked as a spray painter with a garage in Lucan and was paid €530 a week with an annual bonus of €5,000. He submitted wage slips with his mortgage application showing an annual salary of €27,560, which exactly matched his total weekly wage for the year.
However this didn't tally with his tax returns which showed he earned only €10,827.00 that year and paid just €245.51 in tax.
So in spite of earning below minimum wage Liam Byrne was still able to make monthly mortgage repayments of almost €700 (€697.22) a month on a house in Clondalkin. He was also able to pay another €850 a month rent on the house he lived in at Raleigh Square. CAB established the rent money came from the accounts of the car business. The figures clearly didn't add up.
In July 2016 there was just over €110,000 (€110.087.03) left on Liam Byrne's mortgage and he was paying it back with monthly lodgements of €2,000. However the High Court heard that when his sister Maria's bank account was analysed, it showed that she was withdrawing €2,000 on the same date each month. In spite of making these payments, Maria made no claim on the Clondalkin property in the High Court.
CAB discovered that Maria Byrne got this money when she sold another house in Alderbrook, Ashbourne in Co Meath to "fellow sibling Melanie Johnson." €400,000 from the sale was lodged to Maria's account between November 2007 and March 2010 and almost €50,000 (€49,800) was then lodged from her account to her brother and gang leader Liam's account. The High Court declared the house at Grangeview Road in Clondalkin the proceeds of crime.
McGovern's house on Kildare Road in Crumlin was bought in March 2015 and valued at €270, 000. The house was extensively renovated with over €247,000 spent on it. McGovern lived there with his partner Anita Freeman. Anita was also receiving local authority rent subsidies which CAB discovered she was paying into Liam Byrne's bank account.
CAB discovered that €150,000 of the money used to buy the house came from an electronic transfer from an Investec Bank Account in Mauritius. The money is noted as "a loan for the purchase of real estate in Ireland" as coming from the "Mule State Foundation" c/o Grand Baie Trust Company. However CAB couldn't find any evidence of a loan agreement, a repayment structure or indeed any repayments of this "loan."
CAB established the house was bought for €155,000 with the €150,000 from the Mule State Foundation and another €20,000 from the car businesses which was lodged to McGovern's account. Forensic analysis of McGovern and Freeman's means, including their bank accounts, social welfare and Revenue profiles could not establish the source of the money used for the renovations either. This house was also declared to be the proceeds of crime.
Drug trafficking and the Mule State Foundation
The Criminal Assets Bureau decided to try to find out more about "Mule State Foundation" and contacted the UK's National Crime Agency. The NCA responded with information about two conspiracy investigations into drug trafficking from mainland Europe into the UK and Ireland.
The first related to a consignment of industrialised metal rollers which, when searched, contained 21 kilo blocks of 83% pure cocaine, 365kg of cannabis and 10kg of mixing agent. The drugs were trafficked from Belgium and destined for Ireland.
The investigation established that 14 similar deliveries had been made to Dublin using the same method by a transportation company called JBS Transport LTD. A Mr James Mulvey, a director of the company, was linked to the drugs shipment by phone analysis and a Mr Barry Kenneth Phibbs, the company's transport manager created the false documentation to smuggle the drugs.
When the police discovered this method of drug smuggling, JBS Transport found another way. They arranged for an employee to collect and deliver drugs to Ireland using C-scooters and replica Harley Davidson motorbikes. They did it five times before they were caught.
Phibbs and Mulvey were convicted and sentenced in 2009 to 25 and 14 years in prison respectively. Phibbs was estimated to have made over £35m (£35.9m) from drug dealing and a confiscation order was made to that effect.
Mulvey was one of the Kinahan gang's main dealers in the UK. He was jailed again in the UK in June of this year, this time for 32 years. The police discovered that the Mule State Foundation was established "for the educational benefit and wellbeing of the Mulvey family."
VAT fraud and the Mule State Foundation
The National Crime Agency were also investigating VAT fraud and money laundering by a number of payroll companies and the subsequent transfer of that money into the Mule State Foundation. While Mulvey, the Kinahan gang's man in the UK, was not a director of any of the companies, "he was the controlling mind and shadow director of them."
The fraud involved charging VAT on invoices, money that was never paid over to the UK Revenue. Instead the money was moved either in cash or via payments from the company bank accounts to people operating under false names. This disguised the reality that the money was really going to members of the Byrne Organised Crime Gang.
In the ten months between June 2014 and April 2015 £353,000 was transferred to the Mule State Foundation as part of their fraud and money laundering operations. The foundation had so much money it could afford to write off the money that it was owed by a Dublin-based gangster after it loaned it to him to buy his house on Kildare Road in Crumlin.
On 24 February 2016 two of the Foundation's three council members signed the following company resolution;
"It is noted that the Board of the Foundation have taken a decision to write off the loan of €150,000 provided to Mr Sean Gerard McGovern due to his recent demise."
The announcement of McGovern's demise was premature to say the least. The gangster had survived the Regency shooting and is still very much alive and well today, but living abroad.
The CAB seizures
Operation Lamp was set up to target Liam Byrne's gang. The gang members were put under surveillance, CCTV footage was gathered and interviews and arrests were carried out. Teams of armed gardaí from the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the Special Detective Unit and the heavily armed Emergency Response Unit were involved.
They began a series of raids on the gang members' homes and related businesses on 7 March 2016. Further searches were carried out on 9 March, 10 August and 20 September that year.
22 premises were targeted and 11 people were identified and named in the High Court judgement.
25 high-end and luxury cars, three electric bikes and a dune buggy were taken from Liam Byrne. He also lost €8,500 in cash, a Breitling1884 Chronograph watch - the kind advertised in fashion magazines - and his house in Clondalkin.
Liam's partner Simoan McEnroe lost her jewellery, a platinum diamond ring with a 1.53 carat diamond and an 18ct White Gold Diamond ring with a 3.6ct diamond.
McGovern also lost his house, his Rolex Oyster Two Tone watch and Euro, Sterling and Australian dollars with a total value of €10,000.
Fellow gang member Darren Foster lost €8,700 in cash.
The High Court found that the Byrne Organised Crime Gang and in particular Byrne and McGovern were laundering the proceeds of the gang's criminal activities, transferring wealth between the members of various crime gangs, providing a fleet of luxury cars and high-powered motorbikes to gang members and hiding the beneficial ownership of those cars and motorbikes.
.All the assets seized were declared to be the proceeds of crime with a total value of over €2m. The depreciating assets such as the cars and motorbikes have already been sold. The houses and jewellery are expected to gain in value.
It hasn't been a great week for Maria Byrne. Along with agreeing to allow CAB take the house and money she also reached a separate High Court settlement with a cyclist who said she knocked him down in Meath Street in Dublin in May 2011.
Andrew Walsh, a sound technician, said he was hit from behind by a white Nissan Qashqai SUV which Maria was driving.
He also said that two men, whom he did not know, asked him his name and told him to get up. He said he felt "very, very intimidated" and they were "aggressive" towards him and one of them was smoking cannabis and tried to put it in his mouth.
The High Court also heard that Sadie Byrne, Maria's mother, was with her daughter at the time and tipped ash from a cigarette towards Mr Walsh. He said she was talking to the two men before he was taken to hospital in an ambulance. Maria Byrne fully denied the claims but agreed to settle the case last Thursday.
The High Court has now given the Byrnes four months to leave the house at 2 Raleigh Square. Liam Byrne has already gone and is living in the UK, the latest senior Kinahan Organised Crime Gang leader in exile. Gardaí have warned however that in spite of some successes the bitterness engendered by the feud remains and the violence is likely to continue for generations.