ONE of the most senior lieutenants in the Kinahan cartel was arrested by UK cops at Birmingham Airport today.
Thomas' Bomber 'Kavanagh, 51, was lifted by officers from the National Crime Agency.
The gangster, who is also suspected of operating his own drugs empire, is at the very top tier of the Kinahan cartel.
He was held today as part of a major investigation by the NCA and the Gardai into the sale and supply of drugs and firearms in Ireland and the UK.
It was announced that a 20-year- old man was also arrested.
Members of the Garda Drugs and Organized Crime Bureau traveled to England to assist cops in the UK with the operation.
In a follow-up sting, detectives also searched Kavanagh's gated mansion in Tamworth, which is just outside Birmingham, and a business premises in the city .
Dozens of officers could be seen removing a number of boxes from the luxury € 870,000 pad – which still had two giant Christmas ribbons on the front gate.
In a statement, the NCA said: "Two men from Staffordshire have been arrested as part of a National Crime Agency investigation into the supply of drugs and firearms in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
"A 51-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to import and supply drugs, firearms and ammun Ition, as well as money laundering offenses on arrival at Birmingham Airport this morning.
"At the same location a second man, aged 20, was arrested on suspicion of money laundering offences.
" NCA officers, supported by colleagues from Staffordshire Police, are also searching a property in the Tamworth area and a business premises in Birmingham.
"The arrest and searches are part of an investigation into the activities of an organized crime network alleged to be involved in the supply of drugs and firearms.
" The investigation is being supported in Ireland by An Garda Siochana and other international partners.
"The men are currently being questioned at a police station in Staffordshire."
The Gardai also released a statement about their involvement in the major operation.
A ssistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll, from Special Crime Operations, said: "For the purpose of tackling organized crime groups, An Garda Siochana has commenced the new year in the manner in which it intends to proceed in 2019 – by engaging in the most impactful
"In this regard the UK National Crime Agency is one of our most important allies, with whom we share a common desire to put organized crime groups who operate within the common travel area out of business. "
It's understood the two men were later released on station bail while the investigation continues.
Last July, the High Court in Dublin heard that Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh was" at the top of the tree "in the Kinahan cartel.
He is regarded by the Criminal Assets Bureau as having a" direct role in the directing "of th
Investigators told the court that Kavanagh has a more senior role than notorious mobster Liam Byrne, who is also now based in Birmingham having fled Ireland.
Kavanagh is married to Byrne's sister Joanna, who has no
Officers claimed 'Bomber' is "seen as one step above Liam Byrne" in the cartel.
They also outlined how Kavanagh, who has convictions for assault, threats to kill, possession of firearms and assaults on gardai, fled Ireland in 2008 after he was targeted by CAB.
Aside from his role in the Kinahan gang, it's also believed he set up his own cartel and was linked to the massive seizure of cocaine worth € 120million in the Basque part of Spain in November, 2017.
A garda source said: "Kavanagh is a major in the Kinahan cartel but he's also running his own cartel. It's one of the biggest in Ireland and the UK.
"This is a major arrest and proof that law enforcement agencies in Ireland and the UK are on to him."
Kavanagh is a close pal of caged gangster Freddie Thompson, although he's known to be much higher up the chain in the Kinahan cartel than him.  Thompson is currently serving life imprisonment for his involvement in the 2016 murder of David Douglas.
The pair were photographed side by side at the funeral of Liam Byrne's brother David back in February, 2016.
He was shot dead in the infamous gun attack at Dublin's Regency Hotel, an incident which sparked the bloody feud between the cartel and the Hutch gang.
The probe into the Byrne family and the Kinahan cartel was given the utmost priority following the display of wealth at David's funeral.
A € 20,000 blue casket held his remains as pipers, horse-drawn carriages, lines of limousines and motorbikes followed him to his final resting place.
UK-based associates including businessmen Maurice Sines – who once clashed with Elton John over a planning matter – and convicted fraudster James Crickmore also flew in to Dublin for
In the High Court last year, CAB claimed both men "are linked to the larger organized crime network in Birmingham being directed by Thomas Kavanagh."
They continued: "Crickmore and Sines have been regular visitors to Dublin during which time they are in the company of the organized crime group.
" They usually stay at the Westbury Hotel and it has been established th at Liam Byrne has paid for some of their visits.
"They featured prominently at the funeral of David Byrne, where Maurice Sines is pictured wearing the same suit as other leading figures in the group.
" This is believed to be a display of solidarity by the wider Kinahan organized crime group and an indication of the level of trust he holds within this grouping. "
The CAB submissions also named Liam Byrne's cousin, Liam Roe, describing him as a" trusted lieutenant " who has been "involved in organized crime for most of his adult life".
Byrne's best pal Sean Govern, who was injured in the Regency gun attack, was also named.
Liam Byrne has been holed up in a € 500,000 mansion in Birmingham since fleeing Ireland when the Kinahan-Hutch feud was at its bloodiest.
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Garda want to seize property worth € 2,722,624 from Byrne's mob – which includes four homes worth € 2,002,914, 29 high-end vehicles woth € 544,115, six designer watches worth € 83,750, two rings worth € 29,970, a bank account containing € 36,760 and € 34,840 in cash. 19659002] Other luxury items seized by investigators included a € 12,000 dune buggy and three electric bicycles worth € 4,200.
The assets in question belong to Sean McGovern, Liam Roe, McGovern's girlfriend Anita Freeman, Byrne's parents James – aka 'Jaws' – and Sadie, and the late David Byrne's girlfriend Kelly Quinn .