Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

IrelandÕs drug scourge

From 5p sales to £100m deal

Security correspondent PAUL CONNOLLY reports on the accusations made against Farrell _ and the extent of the drugs syndicate connected to him.

Security correspondent PAUL CONNOLLY reports on the accusations made against Farrell _ and the extent of the drugs syndicate connected to him.

FLAMBOYANT Paddy Farrell rose from lowly pig farmer to become Òa leading playerÓ in a £100m international drugs syndicate.

His name was known to police forces and customs anti-drugs teams across Europe, sources say.

But being on top of the heap didnÕt stop Farrell from making a fast buck every which way he could.

He was seen in London earlier this year hawking cheap cigarette lighters on the streets for 5p profit apiece.

ÒHe was a wheeler and dealer, it was in his blood and he couldnÕt stop it,Ó one source said.

ÒHe was all over the world. Sometimes heÕd be making pennies selling lighters, at other times he was involved in multi-million pound drugs deals.ÓHe was known to drugs agencies as a former small-time crook from Cullaville, south Armagh who ÔgraduatedÕ into the multi-million pound narcotics trade via the mainstream border smuggling operations during the 1970s and 80s.

He was dubbed ÔThe TobacconistÕ by Dublin journalists keen to expose his activities but hidebound by the severe libel laws of Ireland and the UK.

The nickname grew after he made a fortune smuggling hand-rolling tobacco from the Continent.

To his family, he was a loving and hardworking family man. He also had legitimate business partners who knew nothing about his double life as a drugs baron.

But other members of his drugs syndicate _ one of the biggest in the British Isles _ know the paper trail that leads to tens of millions of pounds in stashed loot.

Detectives want to confiscate the proceeds before they can be used to finance other drug deals _ or the criminals can cash in their booty to fund their champagne lifestyles.

Farrell (49) was known for his top-of-the-range cars, expensive suits and silk shirts.

He kept himself ÒcleanÓ by being the financier _ deeply involved in setting up drugs transactions but always at arms length from the nuts and bolts of transporting and off-loading drugs.

He is believed to have had paramilitary connections on both sides of UlsterÕs sectarian divide.

A source said: ÒNothing moves in south Armagh without the IRA knowing about it. They would have known Paddy Farrell made a fortune from illegal activities.ÓOther fringe republican and loyalist elements are known to be deeply involved in the drugs trade with former associates of Farrell.

But he met his end when lover Lorraine Farrell blasted him to death with a shotgun which she then turned on herself.

Several notes sent to friends and acquaintances which may explain the double deaths have not yet been made public, but it is believed Ms Farrell had been told her lover planned to leave her.

Even now, another sinister figure has taken over as financier of the drugs syndicate.

The network created by international drugs barons is too sophisticated to break down with the disappearance of one person from the web.

There may even have been two or more financiers in FarrellÕs gang, ensuring the syndicate still has access to their £100m empire salted away in banks, businesses and property around the world.

Said Superintendent Kevin Sheehy: ÒNo person involved in international drugs trafficking works in isolation.

ÒThat person is part of a huge syndicate, all of whom have different functions.ÓÒSyndicates like that have a few experts in every department, specifically financial experts. Part of the security of every syndicate is to have a couple of people who know everything about finance, where it is and where it has been invested. One individual dying does not smash a syndicate.ÓHere are the key people in a syndicate like that operated by Farrell and his henchmen.

FINANCIERS: The people who bankroll shipments. Their word is their bond, or more correctly, their ability to pay precise sums at exact times.

CHEMISTS: Big syndicates dealing in chemical substances like Estacy often use chemists to test drugs to ensure they are not fobbed off with fake or poor quality narcotics.

ENFORCERS: Thugs, often armed, who protect shipments from rival traffickers, the police and customs. Often involved in murder. At least one major Ulster criminal is suspected of drugs murders in Britain and the Continent.

TRANSPORTERS: Often at the bottom of the ladder, they transport the drugs back to Ireland, usually in vehicles. Normally the first to be sacrificed.

PRODUCERS and IMPORTERS: Foreigners who have responsible to grow, produce or _ in the case of Ecstasy _ make the drugs and get it to suppliers.

SUPPLIERS: Foreign middlemen _ often based in Holland _ who arrange vast drug shipments with the financiers in Ireland.

Supt Sheehy said: ÒIn the event of a member of that syndicate dying the fact remains that the syndicate remains intact because there are others who step in and often two or more people do same tasks.ÓThere are many Irish connections in the murky world of international trafficking. Several of the leading figures in England, particulary in the north west, are Irish or of Irish extraction.

And known bands of crooks from north and south of the border arrange shipments from their lairs in Holland and southern Spain.

The RUC believes it has made major inroads into the six big drugs gangs operating from Northern Ireland in the past year.

ÒAt this point in time I am quite pleased we have made significant progress in the last six months,Ó said Supt Sheehy.

The Proceeds of Crime (NI) Order was designed to trap the financiers who are the lynchpin of the syndicates.

Arrests of individual ÔmulesÕ caught with drugs donÕt really disrupt the drugs Mafiosa.

But the new legislation which arms the authorities with the powers to confiscate their ill-gotten gains is designed to hit them where it hurts.

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