The police raid resulting in the arrest of Gerry Hutch in southern Spain on Thursday was the second time a specialist unit there had tried to move against the Dubliner.
However, though gardaí expected Mr Hutch to be detained earlier this year, the Spanish authorities were not successful on that occasion.
The 58-year-old left Ireland 5½ years ago as the Kinahan-Hutch feud erupted in Dublin and gardaí believe he has spent most of his time since then in Spain, while also travelling to other European countries.
While his whereabouts were unknown to gardaí for long periods during that time, his extradition to Ireland could not have been attempted until the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) approved criminal charges against him earlier this year. Once those charges were approved and a European arrest warranted issued, and circulated among European police forces, has status changed and an active search for him began.
He had been traced to Fuengirola in southern Spain and was under close surveillance earlier this year with a view to his arrest taking place then. However, he was not detained at that time as he left the area, apparently for Eastern Europe and in a bid to evade capture. More recently he returned to Fuengirola, where he was being monitored by police.
This week saw the level of surveillance stepped up and culminated in his arrest on Thursday evening in Fuengirola. He was detained by armed officers from El Equipo de Huidos de la Unidad Central Operativa (UCO) – the “escape team of the central operative unit” – of the Guardia Civil at a location close to a property where he had been staying.
The Dubliner is likely to be held in prison in Madrid until he is extradited back to the Republic to face charges already approved by the DPP, though he can fight the extradition process and was expected to do so.
While senior Garda officers in Dublin welcomed his arrest, they told The Irish Times a protracted legal process was likely before Mr Hutch was brought before the courts in Dublin. He is wanted to face charges relating to the gun attack on a boxing tournament weigh-in at the Regency Hotel, north Dublin, in February, 2016, during which one man was fatally shot and several others were wounded.
Garda sources said the death of the senior officer who formerly led the investigation into the Regency attack may complicate the case against Mr Hutch. Det Supt Colm Fox was found dead at Ballymun Garda station on February 10th, 2018. His official firearm was recovered at the scene. Foul play was not suspected.
A previous trial at the Special Criminal Court collapsed after the death of Mr Fox. On that occasion Mr Hutch's nephew – Patrick Hutch (28), Champion's Ave, Dublin 1 – was on trial for the murder of the man shot dead during the Regency attack; David Byrne (34), Crumlin, Dublin. And now Gerry Hutch is wanted in the Republic to face charges over that attack, though he is not suspected of being one of the gunmen on the day.
Gerry Hutch is originally from Dublin's north inner city but later settled with his wife and children in the middle class suburb of Clontarf. He was regarded as the main mover behind the robbery of £1.7 million from a Securicor van in Marino Mart, in north Dublin, in 1987.
He is also the prime suspect for the Brinks Allied depot robbery in Clonshaugh, also in north Dublin, in which £3 million was stolen in 1995. He has denied involvement in both crimes and was never convicted in relation to them.
His nephew, Gary Hutch, became a member of the Kinahan drug dealing cartel before falling out with the cartel's leadership in 2015. He then tried to shoot dead Daniel Kinahan, the man named by the Criminal Assets Bureau in the High Court as the cartel's leader.
Gary Hutch botched that murder attempt on Daniel Kinahan in Spain six years ago and was himself shot dead in that country in September, 2015. The attack on the boxing tournament weigh-in at the Regency Hotel almost six months later, during which Kinahan was the prime target, was regarded as revenge for the Gary Hutch murder. And once that attack occurred, the Kinahan-Hutch feud erupted. It has claimed 18 lives to date, though there have been no killings for almost three years.