Sean McGovern named in court as person in leadership role in Kinahan crime group

Sean Mcgovern Named In Court As Person In Leadership Role In Kinahan Crime Group
The Special Criminal Court heard sworn testimony on the command structure and activities of the Kinahan cartel. Photo: PA
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Eoin Reynolds

Sean McGovern, one of the men injured during the attack at the Regency Hotel in 2016, has been named in the Special Criminal Court as a significant figure in a leadership role in the Kinahan organised crime group.

The non-jury court on Tuesday heard sworn testimony on the command structure and activities of the Kinahan cartel, as well as evidence that 33 people linked to the organisation who were "going to be involved in violence and murder" have been arrested by investigating gardaí.


Detective Superintendent David Gallagher was giving evidence on Tuesday in the trial of Michael Crotty, who is accused of facilitating the murder of Noel Kirwan in 2016 by buying a mobile phone top-up for Sean McGovern.

Mr Kirwan, an innocent man who had no involvement in criminality, was shot dead because members of the Kinahan organisation mistakenly thought that he was connected to the Hutch organisation.

The Hutch gang carried out the Regency attack in which another senior member of the Kinahan cartel, David Byrne, was shot dead.

In his opening speech before the court last week, Dominic McGinn SC, for the prosecution, alleged that Mr Crotty purchased the mobile phone credit at a Spar shop in Naas, Co Kildare, on December 21st 2016 on behalf of Mr McGovern.


Mr McGinn said he will call evidence to show that Mr Crotty had known Mr McGovern for a number of years and that he made the purchase knowing that it would be used, or being reckless as to whether it would be used, in the commission of a serious crime.

Mr Crotty (40), of Slí Aonghusa, Aras na Rí, Cashel, Co Tipperary, has pleaded not guilty to the single charge.

Det Supt Gallagher on Tuesday told Mr McGinn of his experience as a garda for many years investigating serious crime and organised criminal groups.

Regency hotel attack

Following the Regency attack in March 2016, he was tasked with investigating the activities of the Kinahan and Hutch organisations who were involved in a "murderous feud" from 2015 to 2018, he said.


Since 2015, Supt Gallagher said he has been personally involved in prosecuting those in leadership roles within those organisations and members or associates and others who enhanced the criminal activities of the organisations.

He said that he led at least eight investigations which resulted in interventions where there was an imminent threat to the lives of persons who were to be attacked using firearms by members of the Kinahan organisation.

He has also been involved in investigations into drug trafficking and firearms offences, he said.

As a result of operations in which he was involved, he said 33 people had been arrested in situations where they were "going to be involved in violence and the murder of persons in the other criminal organisation".


Those 33 people were arrested and prosecuted for offences including conspiracy to murder, directing the Kinahan criminal organisation, drug trafficking, firearms offences and money laundering, he told the court.

He added: "All of this combined has given me a unique insight into the roles, activities and criminality of the organisation as a whole as well as individuals within that organisation."

Drug trafficking

The detective said the core function of the Kinahan group is "driven by monetary gain with drug trafficking as the primary source of income".

They are involved at an international level to import the drugs and in distribution at street level. They enforce their control "by violence, using firearms and murder," he said. They also engage in money laundering to launder the proceeds of their crimes.


He described the organisation as complex and well-organised. Some of his knowledge comes from phone calls, audio recordings, the seizure of mobile phones and other electronic devices and messages exchanged on encrypted platforms which were accessed in recent years by international policing partners including Europol.

Information has also come from law agencies in North and South America and Dubai that have "provided me with meaningful insight into the organisation".

He explained that the cartel is hierarchical in nature with a command structure. Around its core activities it has a structure of sub-cells with various responsibilities for drug distribution and money laundering.

Within those sub-cells, he said there is a further hierarchy but not everyone who is involved is a member of the organisation. Some people take on roles for monetary gain while others do it because of family or friendship links.

The senior leadership, he said, is now based in Dubai with other cells in mainland Europe and South America while some cells remain in Ireland. Due to disruption and prosecution of persons in the organisation, the level of violence has fallen "dramatically" since 2018, he said, but the organisation still exists.

In 2016, when the Regency attack happened, followed by Mr Kirwan's murder, the senior leadership was based in Malaga in Spain with some senior figures based in Ireland.

The move to Dubai happened around 2017, he said, when "increased collaboration with the Spanish authorities was taking place".

He said that the murder of Mr Kirwan was committed as part of the Hutch/Kinahan feud as retaliation by the Kinahans arising out of the Regency attack and other incidents in 2014 and 2015. "Mr Kirwan was murdered for reasons known to senior people in the Kinahan organisation.

"A number of peripheral people were targeted as well as central persons at that time," he said.

The "kernel of the feud", he said, commenced in Spain in 2015 with the murder of Gary Hutch but, the detective added: "I could go back further if you want a history lesson."

Following the Regency attack, he said there was a "very significant escalation in murders, attempted murders and shootings across the city." The shooting of Mr Kirwan, he said, was part of this series of murders.

Using his operational experience and knowledge of the criminal organisation, Supt Gallagher said he is satisfied to offer the opinion to the court under the Criminal Justice Act 2006 as evidence of the existence of the Kinahan organised crime group.

He agreed that Sean McGovern is connected to that organisation and added: "He is a significant figure within the organisation in a leadership role and is currently based in Dubai."

Under cross-examination, Det Supt Gallagher agreed with Mr Crotty's defence counsel Padraig Dwyer SC that prior to the investigation into Mr Kirwan's murder, Mr Crotty was not on his "radar" and was "not a name that had cropped up" during his investigations into organised crime.

Mr Crotty denies the charge that between October 20th, 2016, and December 22nd, 2016, within the State and with knowledge of the existence of a criminal organisation did participate in, or contribute by activity, or by being reckless as to whether such participation or contribution could facilitate the commission by a criminal organisation or any of its members of a serious offence: to wit the murder of Christopher (aka Noel) Kirwan, contrary to Section 72 of the Criminal justice Act.

His trial is continuing before Ms Justice Caroline Biggs, Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Gráinne Malone.

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