The undisputed godfather of Irish international organised crime, 53-year-old Christy Kinahan has come a long way from the flats on Oliver Bond Street in Dublin's south-inner city.

A former heroin addict who received his first criminal conviction in 1979, he has served several lengthy stints behind bars for offences such as possession of heroin and stolen cheques.

He realised that after being in jail for 11 of 15 years in the 1980s and 1990s that he needed a career change and decided to use his time in Portlaoise prison to educate himself. He became fluent in several European languages and even turned down a chance of early release to complete a degree in sociology. He was released from prison in 1997 and moved to Marbella, where he gradually began to cultivate contacts in the international drugs game.

He always fancied himself as a bit of a gentleman and shed his working-class accent for a more cultured European one complete with expensive suits made by top tailors. He is often seen wearing white silk suits and a panama hat, which has earned him the nickname the 'Dapper Don' in the Irish underworld.

His sense of style obviously went down well with the drugs cartels – he became one of the Colombian cartel's biggest customers and also does tens of millions of euro worth of drugs trade with the Russian mob. He is a true international player and supplies drugs to the UK, Portugal, Belgium and other European countries.

Most of the drugs that end up on the streets of Dublin have been sourced through Kinahan or his contacts. The drugs business has been good to him and it is estimated that he has built up a personal fortune of over €150m. His Spanish assets were last week frozen by a judge. He lives in a luxury €5m villa in the hills of San Pedro near Puerto Banus and owns several properties in the Marbella region.

He is also behind a string of businesses in Ireland that are used to launder the drugs money, such as laundrettes. Many of these were raided by gardaí during 50 searches in Ireland last week.

With over a decade at the top of the drug-importation tree, Kinahan has found himself targeted by the British, Belgium, Dutch, Spanish, French and Portuguese police forces. He also features in intelligence bulletins issued by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

The sheer size of his operation is evidenced by the fact that gardaí have seized in excess of €70m worth of his drugs over the last eight years with officers estimating he has probably successfully imported over €1bn worth of drugs.

Because of his previous convictions for possessing drugs, when he was released from Portlaoise, Kinahan vowed that we would never touch any product again and operates on a strict 'hands-off' basis. He has a team of close associates who manage his affairs. His son Daniel – who was also arrested last week – is regarded by gardaí as being his point man in Ireland while John 'the Colonel' Cunningham is his closest associate in Spain.

If Christy Kinahan is to be successfully prosecuted then it will more than likely be phone taps that will bring him down rather than being physically linked to any drugs. Because of the recent clampdown on his activities by Spanish police it has been strongly rumoured that Kinahan was planning to retire to Ireland.

Because he is responsible for supplying the major Dublin drugs gangs, he has watched with frustration at the number of gangland murders that have taken place in Ireland over the last five years.

He is a great believer in keeping a low profile and lectures Irish gang bosses that murders only bring the unwanted attention of the gardaí and are bad for business.

Spanish police have now linked him to two murders and an attempted murder in Spain – if he was responsible he went to great lengths to cover his tracks because his name was not previously being mentioned as being involved.

In order to encourage peace in Irish gangland, Kinahan paid for 50 seats at a boxing match in the National Stadium last December and dozens of underworld figures attended, including the recently deceased Eamon 'the Don' Dunne. Many who went had been feuding and are believed to have attended out of respect for Kinahan.

He is a proud man who values his reputation. When it became known that he was planning to come back to Ireland, gangsters started to bring up an old dispute he had with notorious criminal Martin 'The Viper' Foley. The pair fell out in 1999 after Kinahan accused Foley of scamming him out of €100,000. Kinahan let the row settle and never sought revenge but he was accused by some people of being weak over the decision.

In January 2008, Kinahan decided that if he was to return home with his head held high he would have to take out his old adversary. Because it is next to impossible to do business without Kinahan's cooperation, he has most of Dublin's drug dealers over a barrel.

He turned to 'Fat' Freddie Thompson and said that he would take it as a personal favour if he organised the Viper's execution. Thompson knew Foley all his life and regarded him as a mentor but nevertheless he organised a gunman to pump four bullets into him outside a gym in Kimmage in south Dublin. Foley managed to survive the assassination bid.

Usually, such failed hits would result in retaliation but Foley quietly let the issue drop and has since made his peace with Kinahan. After the events of last week, it is unlikely that the Dapper Don will fulfill his dream of retiring home any time soon.