Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Spanish bar, called Paparazzi, was just a front for Fatso's real business - importing cocaine, heroin and guns into Ireland and the UK.
Two years ago, Sonia Walsh was living a life of luxury as a gangster's moll on the Costa Del Crime in sunny Spain.
The ex-street trader drove a luxury jeep, owned a plush bar and rubbed shoulders with some of Europe's leading crime lords.
But now Walsh is back living in her parent's cramped corpo flat in north innercity Dublin. Walsh has been living in the second storey flat since splitting with drug lord Mitchell in 2009.
It is a far cry from her life as the wife of a major international drug trafficker. In 2008, she was the proud owner of a luxury villa and a plush bar and restaurant in Puerto Banus on the Costa del Sol.
The Spanish bar, called Paparazzi, wasjust a front for Fatso's real business - importing cocaine, heroin and guns into Ireland and the UK.
EmpireUnlike many gangsters' wives, Walsh played an active role in Fatso's multi-million euro drug importation business.But their criminal empire would turn to dust following a six-month Sunday World investigation.We snapped Mitchell (40) meeting some of Ireland's notorious criminals in Spain, including slain gangster Paddy Doyle, 'Fat' Freddie Thompson and nephews of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch. Following our exposé, Fatso had to sell his home and bar and flee to Amsterdam after being shot in a Spanish nightclub. His marriage to Walsh also came to an end and she moved back to Dublin. A local source said the mum-of-two has been keeping a "low profile". "She has been back in her ma's flat for over a year.
"It's a big come-down for her. Now she has to queue up for her dole like the rest of us. But Sonia's a tough one, she'll survive."Fatso, originally from Summerhill in Dublin, has a long-history of involvement in Ireland's murky criminal underworld.
During the early 90s, Mitchell and his best friend Brian 'The Tosser' Meehan became key members of the drugs gang run by caged godfather John Gilligan. Gardai believe Fatso was involved in the planning of crime reporter Veronica Guerin's murder in 1996.Meehan (44), from Crumlin in South Dublin, was eventually jailed for life for the murder in 1997. But Fatso managed to flee Ireland for Spain as cops closed in on Gilligan's gang. The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) seized his assets in Ireland but he managed to link up with other criminals on the Costa Del Sol to get back into the drug trade. The bald thug developed a close working relationship with Dublin godfather Christy Kinahan, who is one of the biggest drug traffickers in Europe. Mitchell, who earned the nickname Fatso because of his bloated physique, became a central player in a drug importing syndicate, importing drugs directly into Spain.
Irish and British gangs were pooling their financial resources to smuggle drugs worth hundreds of millions into the UK and Ireland.
Mitchell and his business partners were dealing directly with the producers of cocaine, heroin and hash.
Fatso also kept up his ties with Meehan who has continued to direct his criminal empire from behind bars. Blonde Sonia acted as a go-between for Mitchell, who could not return to Ireland because of fears he would be arrested.
Walsh regularly flew back from Spain to visit Meehan in Portlaoise Prison on behalf of her exiled hubby.
Speaking to the Sunday World in 2008, a source said Walsh was fully aware of her husband's activities. But Fatso's drug-dealing empire received a huge blow after he was exposed in the Sunday World in 2008. The thug was shunned by other exiled criminals in Spain after he was photographed setting up drug deals with UK hoods.
Our investigation had exposed hislinks with crime gangs from Liverpool, Manchester and London. In August 2008, the bald thug was shot in the Jardin bar in Puerto Banus after he failed to pay a drug debt to a gang of foreign criminals.
Fatso was forced to put his bar up for sale and flee to Amsterdam after being told his life was under threat.
However, bad luck continued to stalk Fatso after he moved to Holland. In June, he was arrested by Dutch cops after a high-speed chase through the streets of the city which left pedestrians and cyclists leaping for their lives. While he was being chased by the police, Mitchell threw two handguns, a Glock and a Smith and Wesson, from the car.
In a follow-up search of his apartment, cops found a false passport, a Glock handgun and more than €8,500 in cash. In December, the Dutch public prosecutor had called for Mitchell to be sentenced to 15 months on the weapons, false documents and money laundering counts, with a further four months for dangerous driving.
But instead, in an 11-page ruling, the three-judge court cleared him of all charges except dangerous driving. For that he was ordered to pay €500 and banned from driving for four months. The money-laundering charges were thrown out on a technicality. It was not the first time that Mitchell has found himself on the wrong side of the law in Holland.
In November 2004 he was arrested along with his cousin, Paddy Mitchell, a brother of 'Git' Mitchell, as they were organising a shipment of drugs and guns which were destined for Ireland. The pair was nabbed with ten kilos of cocaine, three kilos of heroin and large quantity of ammunition when cops swooped on an Amsterdam apartment.
The two thugs got a 20 months sentence and it took the Dutch authorities more than a year to establish Mitchell's true identity - he had been using the name Anthony Swanson at the time.