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Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh jailed for 21 years after Kinahan gang imported more than £30m in drugs into UK

Thomas “Bomber” Kavanagh, the “top man” in the UK for the Kinahan criminal empire, has been jailed for 21 years after importing cocaine and cannabis worth more than £30m.

He masterminded a “commercial-scale” smuggling operation in which drugs were hidden inside machinery, a judge said.

A business was used as a cover until the authorities intercepted one of the shipments at Dover five years ago.

The National Crime Agency said that Kavanagh, 54, was the “top man” in the UK for the Kinahan organised crime group, which operates in Ireland.

He and two other men – Gary Vickery, 39, and Daniel Canning, 43 – admitted at an earlier hearing to conspiring to import class A and B drugs, and money laundering.

Kavanagh, described as the leader of the group, blew a kiss to family members in court as he received his sentence.

Vickery, who was next in the pecking order, was jailed for 20 years, while his subordinate Canning, who also admitted possessing a firearm and ammunition, was jailed for 19 years and six months.

Their operation was described as a “carousel of drugs in and cash out” as machinery filled with the drugs entered the UK and would leave with money inside.

A business “was being used as a cover for the importations and premises were leased I suspect for that very purpose”, Judge Martyn Levett told the sentencing hearing at Ipswich crown court.

Drugs found in Tarmac removal machine

Irish police seized documents that identified a UK-based freight transport company in January 2017 and made a number of arrests in Dublin, confiscating “a significant quantity of firearms and class A drugs”, a prosecutor previously told the court.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) started an investigation in 2016 and in October 2017 customs officials at Dover seized a consignment of 15kg of cocaine and 200kg of cannabis concealed inside a large, six-tonne Tarmac removal machine.

The shipment, which had a tracking device, was due to be delivered at an industrial unit in Wolverhampton.

The NCA also raided two industrial units linked to the group, one in Wolverhampton and one in nearby Wednesbury.

A gun was recovered from a lead-lined compartment inside a transformer at the Wednesbury unit.

At Vickery’s rented address in Solihull, just outside Birmingham, the NCA found 25kg barrels of boric acid powder – which is often cut with cocaine – along with £43,000 and 100,000 euros in cash.

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

Kavanagh ‘ran empire from luxury mansion’

Kavanagh, originally from Dublin, ran his criminal empire from a “luxury gated fortified mansion in Tamworth, Staffordshire, complete with reinforced doors and bullet-proof glass”, according to the NCA.

When the NCA raided the property in January 2019 after Kavanagh’s arrest at Birmingham Airport they found weapons including knives, baseball bats, swords and an illegal stun gun for which he was previously given a three-year jail sentence, the NCA said.

About £35,000 in cash was found in various denominations, with bundles of notes hidden throughout the house in bags and drawers – even shoved down the back of a sofa.

Matt Horne, deputy director of investigations for the NCA, said Kavanagh and his co-defendants “considered themselves to be untouchable”.

“Their organisation was able to organise, import and distribute drugs worth many millions of pounds into the UK through their connections overseas, their transport infrastructure, which they used again and again to import drugs into the UK on an industrial scale using legitimate hauliers but also front companies to hide their activities,” he said.

“Their international criminal operation spanned continental Europe and the UK.”

There was evidence of their criminal activities taking place in Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Germany and Ireland, the NCA said.

The Kinahan group is an Irish criminal network involving drug supply, firearms and money laundering and associated violence, particularly in Ireland, according to the NCA.

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