THIS is the first picture of the former beekeeper who was one of Kinahan cartel gangster Liam Byrne’s main cannabis suppliers.
But loner Clifton Collins’ secret empire has now been smashed after the High Court ruled last week the 6,000 bitcoins — worth a staggering €53,773,740 — he bought when running grow houses were obtained through the proceeds of crime.
And the Irish Sun on Sunday can reveal that when interviewed by investigators from the Criminal Assets Bureau, the bachelor blamed his “stupidity and cannabis addiction” for his decision to produce home-made grass for some of Ireland’s most dangerous criminals in his native Crumlin, in south Dublin.
Although admitting that his “sole source of income was from the cultivation, sale and supply of cannabis”, the former security guard, 49, refused to name his customers.
Gardai believe his products were sold to gangster Liam Byrne’s associates for €7,000 per kilo and €200 per ounce.
In one interview with detectives, he said: “I cannot remember the exact timelines through this period.
“I was affected by my cannabis habit and I cannot recall most of what happened during these years.
“I am currently in treatment for my decades-long addiction.”
Collins, who also spent most of his adult life unemployed, is just one of dozens of individuals who have been operating under the radar in Ireland for years.
And he was only caught after he was stopped by Garda James O’Sullivan from Wicklow on suspicion of drink driving at Military Road, Roundwood in Co Wicklow at 2.30am on February 7, 2017.
Once arrested, officers also recovered €2,000 worth of cannabis from his Lexus Jeep.
But Gardai struck gold when they searched his rented address at Farnaught, Cornamona, in Co Galway.
During the search, officers recovered a “very sophisticated” cannabis grow house containing 508 cannabis plants worth €406,000.
They also seized a stun gun and documentation linked to his empire. Collins later claimed the weapon was “for protection”.
At the same time, gardai also searched a home in Crumlin and recovered 25 bottles of Isopropyl which is used to extract cannabis oil from parts of the plant.
After receiving a five-year sentence in January 2019, with three suspended, the CAB probe into his financial dealings was already two years old.
And during his interviews with CAB in October 2017, Collins also detailed his involvement in the bitcoin trade.
The drug dealer outlined how he had 89 bitcoins in one online account and 6,000 in another.
He first bought the currency at the end of 2011 and in 2012 and created a different account with his last purchase identified on January 21, 2016.
FISHING ROD HIDEAWAY
At the time of his last purchase, Collins moved his 6,000 bitcoins into 12 different accounts.
Terrified they could be stolen, he wrote the codes to his “online wallets” on pieces of paper and hid them in a fishing rod.
But the fishing rod then disappeared shortly after his arrest following a break in at his rented property in Galway.
Although the wallets still exist and are now in the control of CAB, it’s impossible for anyone to access them without Collins’ codes.
In further statements to CAB, he said: “I have had eight months to come to terms with this fact and I think of it as punishment for my stupidity and addiction . . . Considering the gravity of the situation I am now in, I would gladly give over this wallet to save me and my family from further heartbreak, but this had gone beyond my control.”
Gardai also searched a waste company after other items from Collins’ rented property were removed by his landlord.
The items were later shipped to Germany and China for incineration.
And CAB established how he had also rented properties in Kells, Co Meath, between January 2005 and January 2016 and in Drumlish, Co Longford, between May 2006 and May 2013.
Investigators suspect Collins was using the properties to produce cannabis outside Dublin before returning to the capital.
When producing the mind-bending drugs, he also hacked into the local electricity networks.
CAB also identified how he had purchased 113 bottles of CO2 gas to help produce his cannabis plants on a faster basis.
In their submissions to the High Court, CAB claimed: “Galway wasn’t his first grow house but it was the biggest. Compared to not making money, his drug selling was very financially beneficial.
“He tried to make a big crop when meeting customers. Never met with other drug dealers or gangs and never went out partying but he could socialise.
“Stated he was on a downward spiral and was afraid coming back from holidays that he was going to be stopped.”
During the 12 years he spent running grow houses, he travelled to Thailand, invested in precious metals, used pre-paid credit cards, purchased a gyro plane and trained to fly it.
He spent his profits on a Lexus Jeep, a Ford Transit camper van, a Honda motorcycle, a Redbay Boat Fastfisher, a drone and an outboard engine.
Other major items identified included a Toyota Prius and a Mitsubishi Pajero.
In their investigations, CAB also established how he had purchased 50 bee hives and sold jars of honey in the west of Ireland.
During his time as a bee-keeper, some of the honey he produced also won an award at a top competition in London in 2013.
The investigation into Collins’ empire was run by CAB officers under the command of CAB’s chief bureau officer Det Chief Supt Pat Clavin.
The Irish Sun on Sunday can also reveal that Gardai believe Collins even supplied hash to younger members of the Kinahan cartel and other teenage dealers trying to make a name for themselves in an area once branded the ‘home’ of organised crime in Ireland.
They include young thugs who have remained loyal to the Kinahan cartel during their deadly feud with the Hutch gang after the killing of David Byrne at Dublin’s Regency Hotel in February, 2016.
Others include teenage dealers who continue to intimidate users in the Crumlin area over unpaid debts.
At present, Gardai in Crumlin also continue to maintain ‘Operation Hybrid’ which was launched in 2016 to keep the feuding factions apart.
Both overt and covert patrols have been launched to prevent attacks by the Hutch gang on associates of the Kinahan mob.
Some of the checkpoints have been held close to the home of Byrne’s dad James and other senior Kinahan associates.
Despite the killing spree in the feud, no-one has lost their life in the Kinahan stronghold.
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