Garda (police) Commissioner Fachtna Murphy has hailed the seizure by Dutch and Irish police of 206 guns and a large quantity of drugs in Dublin and Amsterdam as a significant boost in the fight against organized crime.
The capture of 145 weapons in Amsterdam, 27 in Dublin and 14 in Belfast in an exceptional operation involved police and Customs services in Holland and both parts of Ireland.
Convicted murderer Brian Meehan, who drove the motorcycle from which the pillion passenger fired the shots that killed journalist Veronica Guerin 12 years ago, is believed to be one of the leaders of the international gang that was smuggling the weapons into Ireland.
He led detectives to the weapons through intelligence gleaned from calls made from inside his Portlaoise prison cell on a cell phone.
Although Gardai do not have the power to tap phone conversations, their counterparts in the North and Holland do. They monitored a series of conversations between Meehan and underworld colleagues in Ireland and Holland.
Murphy said that the joint police and customs operation involving personnel in the Republic, in Northern Ireland and in Holland was an example of how closer international cooperation can produce significant results.
"It's an example of what can be achieved when we all work together, and combating this dealing in firearms and drugs across borders into this country needs this type of international cooperation," he said.
"Any day that you take that number of guns off the street, any day that you prevent that type of weaponry and indeed these drugs from getting into the hands of organized crime in this jurisdiction is a good day."
The operation is regarded as one of the most successful against gangland gun-running anywhere in Europe in recent years.
According to high-ranking Garda sources, the intelligence indicated that Meehan and his henchmen on the outside were trying to source a large shipment of guns from the Netherlands for sale to gangs across Europe, including to warring criminal factions in Dublin and Limerick.
The Dutch authorities were then alerted. Dutch and Irish criminals were then monitored agreeing the deal.
The transportation of the weapons to the Republic via Northern Ireland was tracked by customs and the police forces of all three jurisdictions over a four-month period under an investigation codenamed "Operation Bench."
When the weapons reached Belfast on Tuesday, August 27, they were put into a car destined for Dublin with cannabis and heroin valued at $6 million. As the car was driven to Dublin, the authorities in the three jurisdictions moved in and arrested two Irish men - one in Dublin, one in Belfast - and four people, including a Brazilian woman, in the Netherlands.
Most of the guns were new. Dutch authorities said they believed the weapons had only recently come out of a factory where they were manufactured in Austria.
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