Texts re­veal the mak­ing of a mur­der con­spir­acy

Chill­ing de­tails of a foiled con­tract hit were de­tailed at Imre Arakas’s sen­tenc­ing hear­ing, writes Maeve Shee­han

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - News -

THE ground­work had been done long be­fore the one-time Es­to­nian sep­a­ratist turned gun-for-hire set foot in Ire­land. The tar­get had been lo­cated, his apart­ment had been cased and his move­ments tracked.

The man in the crosshairs was James Gately, who is an as­so­ciate of the Hutch gang and lives in Belfast. CCTV ev­i­dence would later show the oc­cu­pants of a blue Peu­geot van plac­ing a track­ing de­vice un­der his car. The van had been driven over from Birm­ing­ham and left at Dublin Air­port for the job.

All Imre Arakas had to do was con­front the tar­get and pull the trig­ger.

Arakas is a well-known con­victed crim­i­nal in his na­tive Es­to­nia. In his youth, he joined the Es­to­nian De­fence League, fought against Rus­sian “op­pres­sion”, and once staged a dar­ing es­cape from a Rus­sian prison. His ice-blue eyes and chis­elled fea­tures were on dis­play in pho­to­graphs on his Face­book page and he granted in­ter­views to se­lect Es­to­nian jour­nal­ists.

When he crossed paths with the Irish underworld, he was liv­ing in a rented home on the Costa del Sol, in a state of “fi­nan­cial em­bar­rass­ment”, hav­ing run up a debt he was un­der pres­sure to pay off.

His ar­rest by gar­dai se­cured one of the most sig­nif­i­cant con­vic­tions in the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the Ki­na­han/ Hutch feud.

Arakas pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy to mur­der at the Spe­cial Crim­i­nal Court last month. At his sen­tenc­ing hear­ing last Fri­day, there was no men­tion of the Ki­na­han car­tel — just his links to an or­gan­ised crime gang in Ire­land whose mem­bers are based in Spain and Dubai.

The de­tailed ev­i­dence out­lined by In­spec­tor David Gal­lagher, of the Drugs and Or­gan­ised Crime Bu­reau, pro­vided an ex­tra­or­di­nary in­sight into a thwarted con­tract hit.

Arakas stepped off the flight from Ali­cante to Dublin on April 3, 2017. He took the Air Coach to O’Connell Street, rather than a taxi.

Af­ter that, he strolled the streets of the north city cen­tre for sev­eral hours, tak­ing in Abbey Street, Par­nell Street and Moore Street, where he dropped into a shop to buy a wig. Later he bought a hand­held mir­ror from a nearby dis­count store. Arakas then strolled out to­ward Sum­mer­hill. At 8.20pm a white Mercedes van pulled up and brought him to Blakestown Cot­tages in west Dublin, where he lay low overnight.

He was in­structed via texts to his en­crypted ‘Pretty Good Pri­vacy’ Black­berry phone. The chill­ingly de­tailed and mat­ter-of-fact mes­sages were ex­changed be­tween four num­bers linked to code names and were sent from dif­fer­ent time zones.

The first in the se­quence was from ‘Knife’ to ‘Bon New’...

“Front en­trance to apart­ment is on ‘king street’ its right be­side ‘sean gra­ham book­mak­ers’ it’s a glass door with ‘col­lage court cen­tral’ above it. The car ex­its the rear of this build­ing which is ‘col­lage court’ from a build­ing which opens up and down from a buzzer, there’s a ball cam­era above the en­trance.

“Cham­pagne colour Toy­ota Aven­sius reg num­ber ‘WEZ3381’.

“His park­ing space is as soon as the shut­ter opens di­rectly in front of you.

“There’s a gym at the end of ‘col­lage court lane’ called ‘hench gym’.

“He drives most days he seems to go to Newry and back.”

And Bon New to Knife: “Ok king street is Belfast main street is that cor­rect? And where can we see pho­tos of him?”

Knife replied: “Yes king street there is a europ­car di­rectly across from his app block that’s the front en­trance For the pic­ture go into gog­gle (sic) write ‘James Gately Dublin crim­i­nal’ go into im­ages — the eight line of pic­tures it’s the se­cond pic­ture in, he has a black suit on and when he clicks on pic­ture it has ‘james gately’ wrote un­der pic­ture it’s a clear pic­ture of him.”

The next text was sent from Arakas’s Black­berry de­vice:

“Well I go to in­ter­net soon and have a look. My plan was ac­tu­ally to go there to­mor­row and for a day or two see the sit­u­a­tion in real. Then per­haps I get a bet­ter plan. So far, in case I’m to­tally alone it seems its pos­si­ble to take him down when he comes out of car. Its based on google maps pic­tures. Then there was an open car park be­hind the house bot [sic] if they closed it the sit­u­a­tion is an­other. If not at the car then on his way to the front door. There were huge ad­ver­tise­ments on the way and looks like its pos­si­ble to hide be­hind. The whole prob­lem there is that there is nowhere to hide. Es­pe­cially you wait for the mo­ment he comes out of the door. Also si­lencer would be good. But es­pe­cially it is good if the dog [slang for gun] is re­ally ac­cu­rate be­cause if the pic­ture in google is the same that in real life it could be one shot to the head from the dis­tance and that’s it. Also there is a trick that won’t al­low him to close the front door be­hind him and I could fol­low him to the cor­ri­dor. But it only works when the door frame is metal­lic but by the pic­ture it looks plas­tic but I see there what I can do.”

He po­litely signed off: “Best re­gards”.

The last text was from an­other code name, ‘Bon 4’: “We have a tracker on his car so my idea is when he goes out in car we know he is com­ing back we tracks him live when he is head­ing back to his apt when he is 10 mins away he get in po­si­tion and he parks in the same space al­ways so then you have him.”

Imre Arakas did not get the chance to ful­fil his mis­sion.

He had been un­der surveil­lance even be­fore he left Spain and Irish de­tec­tives picked up his trail at Dublin Air­port, tracked him on his walk­a­bout in Dublin city and on to Blakestown Cot­tages.

At 11.25am the fol­low­ing day, armed gar­dai burst into the house through the back door. Arakas was stand­ing be­side the sin­gle bed, his en­crypted Black­berry mo­bile phone was on a couch be­side the bed.

Garda Sean O’Neill picked up the Black­berry and be­gan scrolling through the text mes- sages, tak­ing pho­to­graphs of the screen as he went, sus­pect­ing what would hap­pen. Within min­utes, the mes­sages were deleted re­motely by the anony­mous ad­min­is­tra­tor of the ser­vice.

Arakas was a strik­ing fig­ure in the Spe­cial Crim­i­nal Court last Fri­day morn­ing, tall, lean, with long white hair to his shoul­ders and dressed in a light blue top.

He sat im­pas­sively as Insp Gal­lagher told the three judges how he was sat­is­fied Arakas was to be paid a “five-fig­ure sum” for his work. His de­fence coun­sel, Michael Bow­man, said his client had ex­pe­ri­enced some “fi­nan­cial em­bar­rass­ment”; “there was a con­sid­er­able debt and this sum was to be set against that”, he said.

The court heard that Arakas, a for­mer wrestler, was a pro­fes­sional diver by pro­fes­sion. He was “scarred” from his time in Rus­sian pris­ons. He had been in­volved in the sep­a­ratist move­ment against the for­mer Soviet Union and had four con­vic­tions for a range of of­fences that in­cluded caus­ing griev­ous bod­ily harm, es­cap­ing from prison, theft, hooli­gan­ism and un­law­ful han­dling of firearms.

Al­though he owned a prop­erty in Tallinn, Es­to­nia, he had been liv­ing in rented ac­com­mo­da­tion in Spain. He is mar­ried and the fa­ther of two chil­dren, but his wife suf­fers from poor health.

Mr Bow­man asked the court to con­sider mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors, in­clud­ing how Arakas had ac­knowl­edged his role dur­ing Garda in­ter­views and had pleaded guilty.

The op­er­a­tion that his client was in­volved in was clearly run by “third par­ties”, he said. Mr Jus­tice Tony Hunt in­ter­vened to say it is “not go­ing to hap­pen un­less some­one is pre­pared to pull the trig­ger”.

Arakas turned 60 yes­ter­day on a seg­re­gated wing at Port­laoise Prison where he is held with six other prison­ers. The court was told that he finds prison dif­fi­cult. He is serv­ing his prison term in a for­eign lan­guage. He had a stroke last month and is on med­i­ca­tion.

Arakas, who will be sen­tenced on De­cem­ber 12, also faces se­ri­ous charges in Lithua­nia once his prison term is com­pleted in Ire­land. The High Court en­dorsed a Eu­ro­pean ar­rest war­rant for him when he was in cus­tody here in Fe­bru­ary.

‘He parks in the same space al­ways so then you have him’

GUN-FOR-HIRE: Es­to­nian crim­i­nal Imre Arakas flew over from the Costa del Sol to carry out the killing of Hutch gang as­so­ciate James Gately, but gar­dai were on his trail and the hit was foiled

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