LIKE computer and internet technologies, the drugs trade in Europe
has been transformed completely in only the past decade. The
individuals responsible forimporting the huge shipments of cannabis
to Europe in the Seventies and Eighties were often playboy types who
acquired a taste for drugs at college and went into smuggling and
distribution in a big way.
Klaas Bruinsma, the Dutch sailor and socialite, made a fortune from
trafficking and wasone of the main sources of the cannabis that
reached Ireland in the Eighties. Bruinsmawas from a wealthy
middle-class background. An expert ocean-going sailor, he took yachts
down to Morocco and sailed them home crammed with hash. In the early
Eighties, he moved up to commercial shipping and hired gangs of men
to do his work, some of his dope being landed off the southwest coast
of Ireland.Bruinsma was then able to devote more time to his
pleasures: ski resorts in winter, sailingin summer. He and his ilk
would not have even considered themselves criminal. Bruinsmawas an
accepted part of the European super-wealthy aristocracy and a
well-known figureat the top regattas during the sailing season. He
was shot dead by rival dealers at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam in
1991. A short while later, Dutch police found 4.5 tonnes ofcannabis
that he had stashed as a pension fund for himself.
Other events unfolding at the same time presaged a momentous change
in the Europeandrugs trade. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the
regional militias and terrorist groupsthat controlled the supply
areas for the heroin trade were free to move out into Europe through
the gateway of the Balkans.
At a conference on transnational crime held in Strasbourg last
year, a delegate from the Azerbaijani parliament laid out the kind of
problem facing European governments. Thevast Nagorno-Karabakh area,
which included about 20 per cent of his country, hadundergone total
revolution, creating a million-strong refugee crisis; it was
controlled byArmenian and other irregular forces whose sole source of
income was organised crime.In other words, a vast uncontrolled area
covering the ancient Silk Route from Asia to Europe was in the hands
of organised crime. This is the route that brings heroin into Europe,
along with ephedrine and other chemicals used to manufacture
The heroin producers and traffickers in Karabakh, along with
Kurdish and Turkish mafias, linked up with the emerging mafias in the
Balkans, which in turn moved into and took over the heroin trade in
Europe. Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, said earlier this
year that 70 per cent of heroin coming into Europe was passing
Switch to Italy and the Lombardian, Sicilian and Tuscan mafia is
linked up with northAfrican and Middle Eastern hashish suppliers.
Spain and Portugal, described by the international drugs watchdog
Geopolitical Drugs Dispatch as a "drugs clearing house" for
Europe, are home to dozens of major gangsshifting cannabis from
northwest Africa and cocaine from South America. The trans-Atlantic
trade in cocaine from South America to the Galician coastal area
ofnorthwest Spain and Portugal has created some of the wealthiest
organised groups in Europe.
Despite the regular huge seizures of drugs throughout Europe, a
feeling of despondency has crept in at both government and EU
Commission level about tackling drug crime.Almost every conference
held by the EU on the subject receives increasingly
fatalisticbriefings with papers entitled: "A drug-free Europe or
free-drug Europe?" and "Progress orretreat?"
So in just over a decade, the European drugs market has become
supercharged. This is having a major impact on the drugs trade and on
organised crime in this country. Sincethe early 1990s - since even
1994-1996 when John Gilligan's gang was turning over €10m worth of
cannabis and coke annually - the drug situation here has been
The big suppliers are now mainly living in Spain or Holland, or
have their operationsbased there and travel back and forth, making
sure they have no major assets in Ireland for the Criminal Assets
Bureau to seize. These people have contacts - mainly in Spain,Belgium
and Holland - with the foreign mafia importers, who now have very
efficient delivery systems in both countries.
It is relatively easy for even a middleweight Dublin criminal to go
to Spain and get hold of a very large quantity of cannabis. A
criminal family from the Kevin Street area of Dublin,which until
quite recently only barely figured in Garda reports in respect of
major crime,has been found to be among the biggest middlemen in this
trade in Spain, buying and trafficking very'A vast area covering the
ancient Silk Route from Asia to Europe is in thehands of organised
crime. This is the route thatbrings heroin into Europe'
large quantities of cannabis and cocaine. Last month one of the
gang - a suspect for themurder of Raymond Salinger, who was shot dead
in a Liberties pub in January - was arrested in Spain with 450kg of
The gang, run by a father and son, was responsible for the cocaine
and cannabisoperation - being run from a former equestrian centre
near Rathcoole, Co Dublin - thatwas uncovered by gardai last year.
The gang is still inbusiness.
What gardai across Dublin say they are finding now is that most
shipments of cannabisand cocaine coming into the middle-ranking
suppliers from the continent come with "extras", as guns
arriving with these shipments are known among the criminal
fraternity.The weapons - anything from high-powered automatic pistols
to sub-machine-guns andeven a missile in one instance - areone of the
prime reasons for the recent upsurge ingang killing in Dublin - the
worst, in fact, on record.
The big suppliers reckon, according to gardai, that the supply of
guns actually helps tostimulate the local drugs trade. It provides
gangs with protection and helps them overcome opponents. Gun law
"sorts the wheat from the chaff", as one put it.
The killing last weekend of Bernard Sugg was the 11th in the city
this year and the 44th since the start of 1998. It is likely to go
unprosecuted, as only two gangland killings haveled to charges, both
in the South Central "A" Garda Division.
No firm suspect has yet emerged for the killing of Sugg, 23, a
violent young man who had many enemies in the Corduff area where he
lived. No witnesses have come forward witha description of the gunman
and none is likely to: Sugg was despised locally and a bigcheer went
up in the pub where he had been drinking after the gunman walked out
toescape on a motorcycle.
The two possibilities being examined by detectives during the week
were that he waskilled by the IRA or by a rival criminal. The former
is the likelier scenario, according to some gardai. The IRA has
killed at least five criminals in Dublin in the past five years andis
active in the Finglas area where Sugg supplied heroin. The IRA shot
dead another member of the same gang, Joe Foran, in Finglas three
Sugg was part of a heroin dealing gang, dubbed the
"Westies" by newspapers because itis based in the western
suburbs of Blanchardstown-Finglas. Its main income comes from buying
heroin from bigger criminals and selling it to middlemen, who then
sell it to street dealers.
The street dealers gather around the city centre each day,
attracting an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 addicts who come into the city
and then leave, taking back supplies to other addicts in the outer
suburbs. There may be between 15,000 and 20,000 addicts in the city.
Formerly the main cause of crime in Dublin, the addicts rarely have
to carry outrobberies to raise money, as the price of street heroin
has fallen dramatically and there isan abundant legally prescribed
supply of the substitute, methadone, which keeps themcalm but is not
a cure for addiction.
Ironically, while Government and gardai continue to issue figures
claiming that crimerates are falling, every garda on street duty in
Dublin concurs there have never been more drugs - and guns - on the
The claims that murder rates here are the lowest in Europe also no
longer hold water.According to British police, there were 52
drug-gang related murders in Britain, with a population of 54
million, last year. So far this year, Dublin, with a population of
fewer than1.5 million, has had 11 gangland murders.
Gardai in west Dublin, on hearing of the murder of Sugg in
Blanchardstown last weekend,pointed out that almost every
working-class area of the city has a feud that could erupt in murder
at any time.
One dispute that has been rumbling on in the Drimnagh-Crumlin area
for the last twoyears, causing five murders already, has still not
fully settled and there is intelligence that one of the two gangs
involved is still intent on murdering any member of the other gang.
In Ballyfermot, a dispute is raging between two drug-dealing
families after a woman wasbadly beaten by a man from one family. He
was subsequently tracked down and beatenmercilessly with weapons
including golf clubs, barely surviving.
The young gang whose now imprisoned leader murdered Darren Carey
and Patrick Murphy at the Grand Canal on Millennium New Year's Eve is
still selling drugs aroundClondalkin, and is armed and involved in
disputes with other gangs.
Sugg and his associates were involved in several disputes. His
associates beat and slashed a man so badly two years ago that he
required more than 60 stitches to his face alone and had a leg and
arm broken. These types of rows, gardai say, are now settled at
gunpoint. If Sugg was shot by another dealer, the chances are there
will be fatal retaliation. His gang has already shot at least two men
in the past three years - PascalBoland, in January 1999, and Paul
Ryan from Raheny, in April this year.