Alison O'Riordan and Eoin Reynolds
The Special Criminal Court has heard a recording of Regency Hotel murder accused Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch tell ex-Sinn Féin Councillor Jonathan Dowdall that the Kinahan cartel want “to be the biggest gang in Europe”.
The court also heard that Mr Hutch agreed with Dowdall when asked if he would be happy “with just a few quid under the radar”, with the accused adding that he doesn’t want “hundreds of millions”.
In conversations captured by a Garda bugging device when Dowdall and Mr Hutch allegedly travelled back from the North after meeting with republicans, Dowdall says: “It seems to me that they’re just blinded by greed and they’re willing to overlook everything for money”.
Mr Hutch replies: “It’s a bit of power as well, not just the money, it’s just the bleedin’ power as well”.
At the non-jury court on Thursday, the final 45 minutes were played of a 10-hour audio recording of conversations between Mr Hutch and Dowdall. The State’s case is that the men were recorded by a garda bugging device on March 7th, 2016 while allegedly driving back in Dowdall’s Toyota Land Cruiser from a meeting in Strabane, Co Tyrone.
The court also heard on Thursday a “thumbnail sketch” of legal arguments that will be made on Friday by Brendan Grehan SC for Mr Hutch. Defence counsel said that the State was “acting illegally” when they continued to use the bugging device after it had travelled to Northern Ireland. He added: “The State cannot be allowed to benefit from its own illegality and the fruits of that harvest should not be admitted into the trial.”
The court has already heard audio where Mr Hutch said he wanted to meet the Kinahans to arrange a ceasefire and have mediation in an ongoing murderous feud, which had by then killed his brother Eddie ‘Neddy’ Hutch. Mr Hutch previously said he wanted to put the feud “to bed” and that this was the best option to avoid “war” with the rival gang as otherwise there would be “casualties on both sides”.
Eddie ‘Neddy’ Hutch was shot dead at his north-inner city home on February 8th, 2016, in what was believed to be a revenge attack for the Regency Hotel shooting three days earlier.
The audio recording heard on Thursday, which concluded three days of evidence, recommenced at 11.25pm on March 7th, 2016 when Dowdall asks Mr Hutch if he missed “goin down the club” to which the accused replies: “Not really no. I’d be more concerned about the cops, I’d be hidin’ on the cops”.
Dowdalls says: “It’s a nightmare for ya”.
Mr Hutch says: “They were at the airport outside the plane waitin for me and they haven’t seen me since. They seen me at the funeral”.
Dowdall says: “I’d say they done your head in when they raided ur gaff”.
Mr Hutch replies: “I’d say they weren’t expecting me to be there, ya know”.
Dowdall asks: “How hard d’ya think they’d push Gerard to get to the bottom of that?”
Mr Hutch asks: “Who?”
Dowdall says “the cops”.
Mr Hutch tells Dowdall that “they’ll try all the avenues, I don’t think they have that much to go on”.
Dowdall says: “I think the best thing that happened was that Byrne funeral, that took it completely away”.
Mr Hutch says: “Well it makes them f**kin showing them what they really are. Ya know”.
Dowdall says: “Yeah I put that in it as well about bleedin them using that link like threatening other cartels abroad sure it proves he tried to link himself with Slab”.
Mr Hutch says: “Need Slab Murphy to get in the middle of it”.
Dowdall says: “I’d say he’s sorry he ever done this Gerard to be honest”.
Mr Hutch replies: “Ah so would I”.
Dowdall says: “He should just stick to the first deal Gerard. They’d everything when ya thinking of it, they’d the whole bleeding control of everything. Their own f**kin paranoia and power hunger. If you’re in that game I wouldn’t deal with them now would you?”.
Mr Hutch says: “I wouldn’t want anything to do with them”.
Dowdall says: “Yeah, ya’d get f**kin nicked, ya know”.
Dowdall says: “Some people it’s just not enough it is no matter what they get”.
Mr Hutch says a “lotta people who have been in the game over the years have walked away”.
Dowdall replies: “Murderin b****rds”.
Mr Hutch says “yeah”.
Dowdall asks Mr Hutch: “How did they get so strong or so big when they were two brothers and a father and the two brothers weren’t f**kin criminals as the rest of the young fellas that came up?”
Mr Hutch replies: “They used the rest of the young fellas, Daniel was a wide enough twist and do this and do that and everyone was full of promises and stuff like that ya know and they made a few quid, but they start makin big money about two years ago”.
Dowdall says: “It seems to me that they’re just blinded by greed and they’re willing to overlook everything for the money”.
Mr Hutch replies: “It’s a bit of power as well, not just the money, it’s just the bleedin power as well”.
Dowdall says: “With the Kinahans it’s power yeah”.
The accused said: “They want to be the biggest gang in Europe, the Columbians and everyone come to them”.
Dowdall asks Mr Hutch if he would be happy “with just a few quid Gerard under the radar”.
Mr Hutch says “yeah” and that he doesn’t want “hundreds of millions”.
Dowdall asks: “I don’t think any country would let them in now Gerard do you?”
The accused says: “What?”
Dowdall says: “I’d say any country they go to in Europe they be scourged in it til they leave, d’ya know what I mean”.
In another clip, the court heard Dowdall laughing says ” All the garda seem to want outta this is their bleedin submachine guns back d’ya know what I mean”.
Mr Hutch replies: “Yeah, their overtime” and then says: Them submachine guns, them Uzis and all that they’re all lethal. They’re no good”.
Dowdall says: “They’re not worth a b***ix”.
Mr Hutch says: “They’re dangerous f**king things now the other ones, them heckler”.
Dowdall says: “They’re the ones they want back Gerard, is it?”
Mr Hutch says “probably”.
Dowdall says “the Uzis are all lethal, there’s no controlling them Uzis, they just spray all over the kip”.
Dowdall asks the accused: “We wanna try to find out where that c*** is that tried to get you in Spain. I’ll take a trip over and show him, will I?”
Mr Hutch says “yes” and Dowdall tells him that he can “cancel at any time”.
Dowdall says: “I’d say by Friday night we’ll hear what the story is, they said they’re goin to meet them in the next day or two”.
Mr Hutch says : “I’d say so yeah”.
Dowdall asks “will Kinahan meet them?”.
Mr Hutch says: “I’ll say he’ll meet them in London” and that “you wouldn’t know with them, ya know they could be playin both sides of the coin”.
Dowdall says: “No, they’re not gonna do that Gerard”.
Mr Hutch says: “They’re gona put this to bed on both sides”.
Dowdalls insists: “No they wouldn’t do it to ya, I’m telling ya they won’t do that. I know for a fact they won’t do it. I bet me life on it”.
Dowdall then says: “They’d fuck too many people over if they do that Gerard”.
Dowdall later says : “I will get in touch with Mary in the morning, see Pierce Thursday, will I do that run everything by him that’s been happening up there”.
Mr Hutch says: “No harm yeah”.
Dowdall says: “And then try and get up to them Friday or something”.
Dowdall then changes the conversation and says: “It’s hard to talk to normal people when you’ve all that other stuff goin on”. Mr Hutch agrees.
Dowdalls tells Mr Hutch that he keeps “changin the chip” in his phone and that every night he hides the chip.
Dowdall tells the accused: “They said to Patsy give us the code off the phone”.
Mr Hutch says: “I wouldn’t give them the code, if they broke into the phone, it’d be inadmissible”.
Dowdall says “even when they delete the texts its still on the phone” and that he “wouldn’t leave [his] phone lyin around”.
Transcripts of the recordings, which are being relied on by the prosecution, were displayed on several screens in the courtroom and have been described as “part of the core” of State’s case in the trial of Mr Hutch (59), last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin 3, who denies the murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne (33) during a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel on February 5th, 2016.
Outlining his objections to the use of the recordings, Mr Grehan said that the “bug” deployed by gardai recorded about ten hours of conversation but for almost eight of those hours, from 3.10pm to 10.50pm, the Land Cruiser was in Northern Ireland.
He said the Criminal Surveillance Act 2009 is “as clear as can be” that an authorisation for a surveillance device can only apply within the State.
He added: “That much is obvious to anyone reading the Act and to those who have to operate the Act.”
He said gardai from the Crime and Security section and the National Surveillance Unit who gave evidence during the trial had taken care to say that they don’t conduct surveillance outside the State because they know that the Act does not permit them to do so.
“But that is exactly what the court is being asked to permit to be introduced into this case,” he said. “It’s the fruits of surveillance taken outside the State. The circumstances in which surveillance can be used are strictly delineated by the terms of the Act but here the evidence suggests clearly that the bug in this case gathered surveillance while on a vehicle outside the State.”
He said that gardaí using the tracking device and bug “knew this was likely to happen” and knew as soon as the Land Cruiser crossed the border because the tracker was giving them real time information.
He added: “The State in this case was acting illegally once it harvested material in breach of its own Act and the protection within it. The State cannot be allowed to benefit from its own illegality and the fruits of that harvest should not be admitted into the trial.” Counsel described as “ridiculous” any suggestion that the evidence relating to the Land Cruiser had “fallen into the lap of gardaí” or that it occurred through happenstance.
Mr Grehan also told the court that he intends to object to how the authorisation for the tracking device was issued. He said the 2009 Act was the first piece of legislation to regulate the use of surveillance in the State and the previous, unregulated system “casts a shadow over some of the practices in respect of the use of surveillance devices which the court has heard about in this case.” He said that if the defence is successful, the court should find that the authorisation was issued unlawfully and “therefore no reliance can be placed on it and no evidence gathered on foot of it should be admitted in the trial.”
Right to privacy
He will also say that the use of the surveillance device was a breach of the accused’s “well established constitutional right to privacy”. He said it is a fundamental requirement of the Irish Constitution and European law that incursions into privacy rights must be “clearly expressed and sufficiently clear” so that individuals can understand the conditions in which the State might use covert surveillance on them.
Counsel said: “The law does not operate in a vacuum and neither can gardai, in particular when operating in an area that is as clearly and precisely regulated by law as the area of surveillance is since 2009. The end cannot justify the means in terms of simply ignoring the law and if we sanction such a process we are in effect abandoning the rule of law.”
He said that gardai who gained permission to plant the device on the Land Cruiser from a District Court judge provided the judge with a pre-prepared document. Mr Grehan said that the “dangers” of using pre-prepared documents had been highlighted previously by the courts. He will also argue that there was an inadequate record kept of the conversation with the District Court judge and that there was a “lack of candour” on the part of gardai who, he said, did not give the judge all the information that would have been required for him to make an informed decision.
Mr Grehan will continue his submissions on Friday before Ms Justice Tara Burns, Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.