Subscriber OnlyCrime & Law

How did Kinahan lieutenant Liam Byrne end up being extradited to the UK?

Byrne’s arrest and extradition continues fall-out from 2016 Hutch gang attack at Regency Hotel

Almost eight years on, the fallout from the audacious gun attack by the Hutch gang at the Regency Hotel in Dublin continues.

Liam Byrne, a major Irish gangland figure, had his life upended that day. His inexorable demise has now led to his extradition from Spain to Britain. The gun-related allegations are the first gangland charges he has faced after a 20-year run that saw him rise to the top of Ireland’s drugs trade.

The 43-year-old is a married father of three whose eldest son, Lee, is dating Lilly-Ella Gerrard, the daughter of former Liverpool and England footballer Steven Gerrard.

Byrne was the leader of the Dublin-based organised crime group that effectively ran the Kinahan cartel’s wholesale drug business in Ireland.


The group took receipt of the cartel’s drug shipments and distributed the narcotics to other gangs across Ireland. It ensured everyone paid on time and grew rich on its share of the spoils, most of which went to the Kinahans, first based in Spain and more recently in Dubai.

At the time of the Regency attack – February 5th, 2016 – Byrne, as the Kinahans’ main lieutenant in Dublin, was regarded as a kingpin of the Irish underworld.

He was at the hotel for a boxing tournament weigh-in with his brother, David Byrne (33), cartel leader Daniel Kinahan (46) and his close friend and business associate Sean McGovern (37).

The Hutch gang – some dressed in mock garda uniforms and armed with AK47s – were intent on murdering Kinahan in revenge for the killing of Gary Hutch (34) in Spain the previous September. However, Kinahan managed to flee, David Byrne was shot dead and McGovern was wounded.

The Garda was badly caught out by the attack, which highlighted gaping intelligence failures and a lack of surveillance. While members of the media were camped outside watching and photographing the most powerful drug dealers in the history of Irish organised crime, gardaí were absent.

Amid severe political and public pressure, the Garda was forced to ramp up its investigations into the Kinahan and Hutch gangs. The biggest loser in the years that followed was Liam Byrne

His brother, to whom he was very close, was killed and Byrne’s rival, Gerard Hutch, was acquitted of that murder earlier this year. After the Regency attack, the Kinahan-Hutch feud sharply escalated, with Byrne fleeing the Republic for his own safety and to evade gardaí.

Just six days after the Regency attack, the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) moved against Byrne very publicly. A car garage he had established as an alleged money laundering front and slush fund was closed and the vehicles were seized.

His family home at Raleigh Square, Crumlin was also searched by the bureau. It was purchased in 2011 for €250,000, with a further €500,000 spent extending and renovating the property, which had a Jacuzzi, a panic room, bulletproof windows and reinforced security doors added in.

The Cab’s “day of action”, less than a week after the Regency attack, saw it seize 29 vehicles, six motorbikes, jewellery and about €100,000 in cash. Byrne lost all of the assets, including his family home, when he did not contest the bureau’s case against him.

By then, Byrne was living in Tamworth, England alongside his brother-in-law, Thomas “Bomber” Kavanagh, who ran the Kinahans’ UK drugs business and was a senior cartel leader.

As the Kinahan-Hutch feud raged back in Dublin, the Garda gradually picked off underlings in the “Byrne organised crime group”. Many of them were charged with feud-related crimes and jailed, meaning the gang was effectively wiped out.

Byrne is alleged to have continued his involvement in organised crime in Britain, where authorities claim he was sourcing firearms for sale into the criminal underworld.

When he realised he was under investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA), and that the net was closing, Byrne fled to Dubai. He lived openly there and was confident enough to travel to Mallorca, Spain in late May for a family holiday.

However, 10 days into the trip he was arrested by the Policía Nacional, at the request of the British authorities, while having a meal with family members in Alcudia on June 4th. He was held in custody by the Spanish from that point, resisting his extradition. Those efforts have now failed.

Byrne was on Tuesday flown to Britain, under armed escort, and has appeared before Westminster Magistrates Court. He was remanded in custody until January 8th. Given his criminal profile, and his wealth, he is regarded as a flight risk and is very unlikely to be granted bail.

He has been in prison before, for assault and robbery offences committed while he was a teenager. In the 20 years between his release from those sentences and his arrest in Mallorca, he spent just five days in prison, all in Ireland and in connection with minor matters.

He now faces charges in Britain of conspiring to possess a firearm without a certificate; possessing ammunition for a firearm without a certificate; possessing a prohibited weapon; possessing prohibited ammunition; and perverting the course of justice. The NCA alleges messages it retrieved from the EncroChat service link Byrne, and his co-accused, to gun trafficking.

EncroChat was a secretive messaging service, only available on modified mobile devices, that was favoured by people involved in organised crime when communicating with each other. Despite claims that the service was impenetrable, international law enforcement breached it in 2020 and the evidence gathered led to major moves against crime gangs globally.

One of Byrne’s co-accused is Jack Kavanagh (22), his nephew. He was arrested in Málaga just days before Byrne, also at the request of the British authorities. Kavanagh grew up in Tamworth in a Dublin family. He is the son of “Bomber” Kavanagh, who was jailed for 21 years in Britain last year for his role in smuggling Kinahan cartel drugs into the UK and is also set to stand trial over the gun-running allegations.

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here