Veteran Dublin criminal Gerry Hutch has made his first court appearance in Spain since his arrest there last Thursday on foot of a European arrest warrant issued by the authorities in the Republic.
The 58-year-old Dubliner was denied bail during what was a largely procedural hearing on Saturday. He did not indicate during the court hearing whether he would fight his extradition to the Republic or agree to surrender.
Hutch, a married father with an address in Clontarf, north Dublin, appeared before the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid on Saturday. His appearance came less than 48 hours after his arrest close to a property where he had been staying in Fuengirola, a resort popular with Irish holidaymakers near Malaga in southern Spain.
The Garda’s security and organised crime units were liaising in recent months with their colleagues in southern Spain with a view to arresting Hutch. And while a plan earlier this year to take him into custody was not successful, it was revived in recent weeks.
He was tracked, based on intelligence gathered by the Garda, to a property in Fuengirola and surveillance on him there was ramped up last week. Members of El Equipo de Huidos de la Unidad Central Operativa (UCO) – the “escape team of the central operative unit” – of the Guardia Civil were outside the property last week, working in 24-hour shifts to maintain surveillance on the house.
They were waiting for their moment to move in and arrest him or to take him into custody if he came out of the property. However, when he was spotted near the property the officers on the scene made checks to confirm his identity and were given approval to move in and arrest him.
Regency Hotel attack
There was no indication Hutch offered resistance after being approached and told he was being arrested as he was wanted to face trial in Dublin in relation to the Regency Hotel gun attack in Dublin in February 2016. He was secured to handcuffs, placed into a police van and then driven to the Guardia Civil command centre in Malaga about 30km away.
He was held in a cell there until Saturday when he was driven under armed escort, in a convoy of police vehicles, to Madrid where he appeared before the court for a brief hearing. The Guardia Civil was expected to share more details of his arrest, and the operation leading up to it, as early as tomorrow (Monday).
Garda officers believe it is likely Mr Hutch will fight his extradition. If that is the case, and he was to lose his challenge, it would be several months before he was extradited to the Republic. If he agreed to be extradited he could be back in Dublin within days.
About four months ago the courts in Dublin granted a European arrest warrant for him after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) directed he should face charges related to the February 2016 attack at a boxing tournament weigh-in at the Regency Hotel.
During that attack five gunmen – including three dressed in mock Garda ERU uniforms and armed with AK47s – burst into the venue and opened fire. Gardaí believe the main target of that attack was Daniel Kinahan, the man named by the Criminal Assets Bureau in the High Court as leader of the Kinahan cartel.
However, while Kinahan fled the scene, one of his associates – David Byrne (34), Crumlin, Dublin – was wounded and died from his injuries. Several other men were wounded but survived.
That attack was seen as revenge for the murder of Gary Hutch – the 34-year-old nephew of Gerry Hutch – in Spain in 2015. The Regency attack accelerated the Kinahan-Hutch feud, which has to date claimed 18 lives.
For the past 5½ years gardaí have wanted to question Gerry Hutch about the Regency attack. However, he left the Republic in early 2016 and has been living in continental Europe, mostly in Spain, since then. He could not be extradited to be questioned, meaning he was free to travel anywhere. However, when the DPP directed earlier this year he should face charges, a European arrest warrant was issued and an active search began, with a view to his extradition.