'Kinahan lieutenant' Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh jailed for 21 years for drug and money laundering


CRIME boss Thomas "Bomber" Kavanagh (above) has been jailed for 21 years for drug importation and money laundering offences.

Co-conspirators Gary Vickery and Daniel Canning got 20 years and 19.5 years respectively for their roles in a "highly sophisticated" conspiracy to import hundreds of tonnes of cocaine and cannabis into the UK from Europe hidden inside lorries.

The National Crime Agency (NCA), which brought the prosecution, said Kavanagh was the "UK figurehead of the Kinahan Cartel" - an international organised crime group "involved in drugs supply, firearms and money laundering" that originated in Ireland, with tentacles in Europe, Dubai and beyond, that is said to be run by Christy "The Dapper Don" Kinahan, 66, and sons Daniel, 44, and younger brother Christopher junior.

Judge Martyn Levett passed the sentences today at Ipswich Crown Court following a sentencing hearing that started on Friday and 20 months after the three pleaded guilty.

However, despite the NCA claims there was no mention of the Kinahan Cartel during Kavanagh, Vickery and Canning's prosecution or during their sentence.

NCA Deputy Director of Investigations Matt Horne also admitted during a press briefing last Wednesday that no links between Kavanagh, Vickery or Canning had been found to the Kinahans, currently based in Dubai, during the investigation.

Kavanagh has been previously photographed at social events with the Kinahans in Ireland and his brother-in-law David Byrne was shot dead during the Regency Hotel shooting in 2016 as part of the Kinahan-Hutch gang feud, when Daniel Kinahan was the intended target.

He was also identified as a key member of the Kinahan Cartel, with links to the family, in an Irish Criminal Assetts Bureau (CAB) application to the Irish High Court to confiscate property and money from other named cartel members in Ireland in 2017.

The Ipswich Crown Court sentencing heard that Kavanagh had thousands of pounds in cash (above) stashed in designer handbags found in his gated mansion, which was protected by bulletproof glass and reinforced doors.

Today he received a 27 year sentence for conspiracy to supply about 30kgs of cocaine and 600 to 800kgs of cannabis and money laundering for the about £35,000 found in cash in various denominations, including sterling, euros, US dollars and Emirati dirhams, which had been stuffed into drawers, bags and down the back of sofa cushions.

When the NCA raided the property in January 2019, officers found numerous weapons, including knives and coshes and an illegal stun gun for which he was eventually given a three-year jail sentence.

The judge reduced that sentence by 20 per cent to 21 years due to his guilty plea.

He will serve half of the sentence in custody before being released on licence in around 2031.

Kavanagh, 54, from the mansion in Tamworth, Staffordshire was known as "The Gaffer" by subordinates Vickery and Canning during the smuggling plot.

Vickery, 39, from Solihull and Lanzarote, got 25 years reduced to 20 for the same offences.

Canning, 43, both from Solihull and Dublin, got 18 years reduced to 14.5 for the drug and money laundering offences, but an extra five years for possession of a Smith & Wesson 357 revolver with 85 rounds of ammunition found hidden inside an adapted lead-lined transformer found in a wooden crate.

This gave the 19.5 years total.

All three will now be subject to proceeds of crime confiscation proceedings and Kavanagh will be placed under a serious crime prevention order upon his release.

The court heard NCA investigators were able to evidence the three and the late Martin Byrne's involvement in large scale drug shipments worth around £30 million at UK street value, as well as movements of cash and firearms.

Mr Horne said after the sentencing: “Kavanagh was a high ranking member of the Kinahan cartel, an organised crime group synonymous with acts of violence. He was their main man in the UK.

“Through their criminal connections overseas, his organisation was able to organise, import and distribute drugs worth many millions of pounds.

“These men considered themselves to be untouchable, but we were able to systematically dismantle the group and prove that this was not the case.”

The NCA’s investigation into Kavanagh’s network began in early 2016.

In January 2017 Irish police linked a number of suspected Kinahan Cartel seizures of drugs and weapons to Midlands-based freight and logistics firms linked to Canning, Vickery and now dead fellow Irish man Byrne, who died of lung cancer in 2018 during the probe.

Vickery, Canning and Byrne were all arrested by the NCA in October 2017 following the seizure of 15 kilos of cocaine and more than 220 kilos of cannabis, found inside a six-tonne industrial tarmac removal machine at Dover.

The drugs had been hidden inside the machine, which had a tracking device fitted and was due to be delivered to an industrial unit in Wolverhampton.

This led NCA officers to raid two industrial units linked to the gang, one in Wolverhampton and one in Wednesbury.

In the Wednesbury address investigators found the shell of an industrial transformer, which still had traces of cocaine inside, as well as a black holdall containing a handgun and ammunition.

Byrne’s DNA was found on the gun, and his fingerprints on the bag with was in.

Investigators also found boxes full of GPS tracking devices, identical to the one found on the machine seized at Dover.

Officers raided Vickery’s rented property in Boundary Lane, Solihull, where they recovered five 25 kilo barrels of boric acid powder – often used as a cocaine cutting agent – a cash counting machine, £43,000 sterling and 200,000 Euros cash.

Small amounts of cash and further phones and encrypted communications devices were found at Canning’s home in Dickens Heath.

Information on those devices showed Kavanagh was heading up the criminal enterprise, with messages between the group referring to him as “the Gaffer”.

He was also in contact with criminal contacts in Europe to orchestrate shipments.

Kavanagh was arrested at Birmingham Airport as he returned to the UK on 12 January 2019.

Communications between the group and surveillance also provided evidence that they had been involved in another 22 imporatations.

However, Kavanagh would only acceot involvement in three of them and Vickery five.

The estimated street value of cocaine importations by the group was £23.4 million.

Cannabis importations over the same period are estimated to have been worth around £6.4 million.

The trio pleaded guilty to the offences they were charged with in July 2020, though legal arguments, the Covid 19 pandemic and Vickery’s extradition from Lanzarote, after he refused to turn up to court, delayed their eventual sentencing.

Mr Horne added: “This investigation involved co-operation with An Garda Síochána in Ireland. We are determined to work together to target criminal networks impacting communities on both sides of the Irish sea.

“Our financial investigation into Kavanagh and his associates is ongoing, with a view to stripping them of any assets they have acquired through their criminality. This is not the end of our activity targeting this group.”

ON CAMERA: NCA surveillance images of Canning (left) and Vickery at one of the industrial units

NCA officers have already obtained freezing orders on a number of high value items, including watches, bikes and jewellery, seized as proceeds of crime from Kavanagh’s Tamworth mansion, as well as the house itself. Vickery’s property in Spain is also subject to a restraining order.

Kate Anderson, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor of the CPS International Justice and Organised Crime Division, said: “This organised crime group imported millions of pounds worth of dangerous drugs into the country, concealing them in machinery in a bid to evade detection.

“They showed no regard for the communities they were putting at risk and pleaded guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence showing their part in this illicit operation.

“Cases like this demonstrate our commitment to disrupting organised criminal activity - and ensuring they face justice.”

Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, who heads Organised and Serious Crime within An Garda Síochána, said: “The successful outcome to court proceedings in the UK today represents a very positive development in efforts being made by law enforcement authorities, at an international level, to tackle criminality engaged in by organised crime groups and networks that have an international dimension and who, through the sale of drugs and other crimes have a negative impact on communities across the globe.

"An Garda Síochána has forged a very powerful working relationship with the UK’s National Crime Agency, which is assisting in ensuring that communities in the UK and Ireland are better protected from organised crime”.