KAVANAGH CASE: Arrest warrants after two defendants say 'we're not going to jail without vaccines

Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh claims network only imported 30kgs of class As - not the 292kgs prosecution based upon

WARRANTS have been issued for the arrest of two Kinahan cartel associates accused of major drug importation offences after they failed to turn up in court amid claims they want to be double vaccinated against coronavirus before going to prison.

Gary Vickery, 38, and Daniel Canning, 42, pleaded guilty at Ipswich Crown Court with Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh, 53, to conspiring to import 292 kilos of class A and 600 to 800 kilos of class B drugs, and money laundering, a year ago in July 2020.

Kavanagh, seen as the UK's most senior Kinahan cartel associate has been in custody in Dovegate Prison after being jailed in 2019 to a three-year sentence for possessing a stun gun disguised as a torch, which was discovered during a raid on his mansion as part of the same operation.

The court heard today he has now been moved to Chelmsford Prison.

The three have yet to be sentenced due to a long running wrangle over the level of criminality they are actually admitting to and the amount of drugs actually involved.

The case was further complicated after Vickery and Canning were each given unconditional bail at the first hearing in Cannock Magistrates' Court, meaning they have been able to move to Lanzarote and Dublin respectively.

They pleaded guilty by remote link and have not set foot in a court room since.

At a hearing in May, which they attended remotely, Judge Martyn Everett warned them to be in court on July 16 or face warrant for their arrest being issued. But, the pair both attended again remotely.

Barristers for the pair said they had informed the court they would not attend and had only done so reluctantly so they could be double vaccinated before being jailed.

Nigel Power, representing Vickery, said it was not right for him to have to leave an island with just 72 confirmed cases (Lanzarote) to the UK with rising cases without being fully vaccinated.

The two accept they will be arrested as soon as they set foot in the country, Mr Power said.

In May Judge Levett (above) warned the pair they could get an extra 12 months added to their sentence, but he made no mention of this today.

It also emerged today that a two-week Newton hearing, which would have looked at their level of criminality, may be avoided.

The CPS appears to have accepted a basis of plea from Kavanagh that the amount of class A drugs imported during the conspiracy was only 30kgs and not the 292kgs on the indictment.

Max Baines prosecuting, said he would still proceed on the basis of earlier submissions about the amounts, because the difference in sentences possible for drugs between 30 and 300 kgs was negligible.

That left the decision of whether a Newton hearing was needed or not in the hands of Judge Levett.

The case was adjourned until August.

If they pair to not show up the CPS will begin extradition proceedings, which Judge Levett warned would be lengthy due to Brexit.

The three are said by the Irish Criminal Assets Bureau to be part of the international Kinahan drugs Cartel, which began in Ireland, but is now run from Dubai.

The prosecution was the result of a four-year joint investigation by the Irish Garda and the NCA into a multimillion pound, Kinahan-backed drug-trafficking operation.