Rainey brothers raked in thousands for terror gang before they were ditched over links to UDA. Now they face jail after pleading guilty to drug charges
Criminal brothers who were among the East Belfast UVF’s biggest drug dealers are facing prison after admitting running a money-spinning cocaine network.
Glenn Rainey (36) and Mark Rainey (42) appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Friday to plead guilty to a raft of charges including being concerned in the supply of cocaine and cannabis.
In the dock with them was 34-year-old William ‘Buff’ Hunter — a UDA-aligned drug dealer who confessed to the same charges.
The trio were arrested last August by officers from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force in what it said was an operation against the East Belfast UVF.
It was after this that the Rainey brothers were ostracised by the terror gang and told they would not be allowed on the loyalist wing of Maghaberry Prison. Prior to that they were among its biggest drug dealers, selling cocaine — sourced from Dublin criminals and nationalist drug dealers in the Short Strand area — by the kilo.
“The Rainey brothers have flooded east Belfast with cocaine and cannabis for years, and they did so with the protection of the UVF,” a loyalist source told Sunday Life.
“They only fell out with the UVF when it came out that they had been working with Buff Hunter selling cocaine and cannabis on the side. Buff, who is affiliated to the UDA, was their supplier.”
The Rainey brothers’ guilty pleas will heap further pressure on the East Belfast UVF, which has been left reeling following a series of police drug seizures over the past year.
Since May last year, the PSNI has recovered £1.2m of drugs belonging to the organisation and almost £200,000 in illegal cash.
The gang’s alleged leader, veteran loyalist Stephen ‘Mackers’ Matthews, lost a High Court challenge taken against Sunday Life last weekend to prevent him being named as the reported boss of the East Belfast UVF.
The fallout from this has led to long-standing UVF members who oppose drug dealing renaming the East Belfast UVF “the East Belfast drugs cartel”.
Matthews denies any links to criminality, with UVF sources in east Belfast insisting the Raineys no longer have any links to the terror group. They are also adamant that many of the drugs raids linked to the East Belfast UVF by the PSNI do not involve the gang.
After brothers Glenn and Mark appeared in court last summer, one loyalist told us: “The Raineys have nothing to do with the UVF, and neither will they be welcome on the loyalist wing of Maghaberry Prison.”
But the fact remains that the Paramilitary Crime Task Force has linked their cocaine dealing, and that of Buff Hunter’s, to the East Belfast UVF.
The trio were first arrested in October 2020 after police searches of Hunter’s home led to the discovery of an air rifle, legal highs, suspected cannabis and £3,000.
Around the same time, cops seized Mark Rainey’s phone, which revealed extensive communications about the supply of cocaine and cannabis.
All three were charged in August last year, and giving evidence in court a PSNI officer said of the phone: “It detailed quite a bit about the operation, who was transporting what and to where.”
He then explained how another phone found in Glenn Rainey’s bedside locker showed “a very extensive insight” into the supply of drugs.
The court heard police studied thousands of pages of transcribed messages, with the officer adding: “It (the mobile) detailed the movement of drugs, money owed to, money owed from, methods of delivery and even quarrels between the co-accused.”
Further examination of the phones showed threats being made against people who owed debts to the Raineys, and how large quantities of drugs and cash were kept in safe houses away from their home addresses.
At a later court hearing, a lawyer for the Public Prosecution Service said: “It’s our case that these three men are part of an organised gang.”
Glenn Rainey, who is on remand in prison, is scheduled to appear at Belfast Crown Court again on July 18 for an update on his case. Both Mark Rainey and Buff Hunter were freed on bail until sentencing.
The Rainey brothers are facing further cocaine dealing charges dating back to 2019 raids by the Paramilitary Crime Task Force which broke up another suspected UVF drug dealing network in east Belfast.
Glenn Rainey is also charged alongside four others with murdering dad-of-two Ian Ogle in January 2019. He denies involvement in the East Belfast UVF killing.
Their pal Buff Hunter is among the biggest drug dealers in Belfast and has long-standing ties to UDA factions in the north and east of the city, to whom he paid protection cash. He has served two previous jail sentences totalling 34 months for cocaine and cannabis dealing — the first in 2014 for conspiring to supply cocaine, and the second for supplying cocaine and possessing a 9mm handgun and ammo.
Within days of getting out of prison in December 2019, Hunter was back dealing drugs in north Belfast.
His release coincided with the West Belfast UDA taking over crime rackets in his native Tigers Bay.
The loyalist gang began taxing Hunter, who moved to east Belfast to avoid paying. While there, he formed an alliance with Glenn and Mark Rainey.
Sunday Life understands that other information found on Mark Rainey’s phone is still being examined by police. This includes his cocaine customer list, with one buyer suspected of being a serving police officer connected to a high-profile case.