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Daniel Kinahan.
Daniel Kinahan.

'This is bigger than Daniel Kinahan': Gangland figure's time in Dubai could be near an end

Five years ago today – the rules of gangland changed forever.
Feb 5th 2021, 6:15 AM 100,231 12

AT LUNCHTIME ON 5 February 2016, a white van approached the front of the Regency Hotel. What was to happen in the following five minutes was to change the face of Ireland’s criminal history forever.

Five years and 18 murders later, the country is still reeling from the events which shocked the world on that cold and wet afternoon. 

On Monday, BBC Panorama aired a documentary – Boxing and the Mob – detailing Daniel Kinahan’s link to the upper echelons of the boxing world, along with his association with crime and murder. 

The name Kinahan in Ireland has long been associated with organised crime, murder and tragedy. But it is only in recent months that those across the world are now seeing Daniel Kinahan for what gardaí and various police forces suspect that he is – the head of an international drugs cartel. 

Officials in Dubai, where Kinahan fled as a feud with the rival Hutch gang raged in Dublin and Spain, are now in contact with Irish and Spanish police forces. Extradition remains a realistic possibility. Deportation is a more likely outcome. 

However, if he were to be extradited, he would most likely be sent to Spain, a place he used to call home and a place where his family is accused of building one of the most dangerous cartels in Europe. 

The Kinahan/Hutch feud undoubtedly changed the face of gangland crime, and subsequently policing of it, in Ireland. It ushered in a new era of brutality and ruthlessness. Nobody at any level of the organisations were safe. Life was no longer sacred. The fight was on the streets, and people were inevitably going to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

To track the start of the dispute, one must return to the early 2010s when Gary Hutch – Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch’s nephew – was working for Kinahan and heavily involved in the organisation’s Spanish trade.

That relationship turned sour after Gary Hutch was accused by the gang of laundering cash from a drug deal in 2014. That same year, an innocent boxer – mistaken for Daniel Kinahan – was shot in the leg while on the Kinahan’s family’s Spanish property. Gary Hutch was suspected of ordering the hit. He fled Spain when it emerged that Kinahan had survived.

With tensions running high, Gerry Hutch attended various meetings with the Kinahan gang to work out a ‘peace deal’ – it is understood cash was paid in return for the cartel’s word that Gary would not be targeted.

However, in September 2015, Gary Hutch was shot dead in Estepona on the Costa Del Sol. Following this, back in Ireland, Dublin gangland was split into two camps – Kinahan or Hutch. Battle lines were drawn.

What followed was years of attacks with the vast majority of casualties falling on the Hutch side. But the Kinahans were to be attacked first on that February afternoon. 

The Regency Attack – five years on 

As the hit team exited the Regency Hotel, convicted criminal David Byrne, a long-time member of the Kinahan Organised Crime Gang (KOCG) lay dead in the lobby of the hotel. Videos and pictures of a lifeless Byrne on the floor were quickly shared across WhatsApp. 

Pictures of AK-47 wielding men storming the hotel dressed as armed gardaí were broadcast around the world. Ireland’s drug war had piqued the interest of the world’s media, if for a brief period. 

The message sent that day to the Kinahan cartel, as well as to gardaí and the public, was that murder can happen anywhere and at any time – and it may be committed by those you are supposed to trust. 

Today, things are different. Gardaí, along with police in the UK and in Europe have dismantled many of the key cells of the cartel. 

Screenshot 2021-02-04 at 6.13.07 PM Armed gardaí on the streets of Dublin. Source: PA

Some of its main players – like Fat Freddie Thompson and Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh – are in prison. The rest of the main so-called lieutenants have scattered across the globe.

Daniel Kinahan has no convictions. It’s a fact he and his lawyers repeat often. In a statement released before Monday’s Panorama documentary broadcast on the BBC, Kinahan described himself, on three occasions, as a “legitimate businessman”. 

However, in a High Court affidavit in Ireland in 2019, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) described how he managed and controlled the day-to-day operations of the drug gang. This was accepted by the court. 

While the documentary did not tell the Irish viewer much they did not already know, it did reveal Daniel Kinahan’s true business to the widest audience it has ever known, damaging his claims of legitimacy and his chance at fulfilling his boxing dreams. 

Kinahan had been trying to make himself a household name as a boxing promoter, getting increasingly more public in his endeavours until last year.  

The political action

In summer 2020, heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury posted a video on Twitter confirming that a fight between him and Anthony Joshua had been arranged and that Daniel Kinahan was the main man behind it.

While the boxing world salivated over the prospect of one of the most sought after heavyweight bouts becoming a reality, gardaí, journalists and most of the Irish public were left scratching their heads. 

As one police contact put it: “Did he just say that? Clown.” 

The move backfired. 

Diplomatic missives were sent from Ireland to the Middle East and within days, KHK Sports, the Bahraini combat sports firm, cut ties with its recently hired ‘special advisor’ Daniel Kinahan. 

KHK, which was established by the son of Bahrain’s king, announced it would no longer engage his services.

kinahantyson Tyson Fury and Daniel Kinahan. Source: Twitter

Back in Ireland, while Daniel Kinahan’s name was spoken about in garda conference rooms, Government department meetings and on the streets by anyone who read the news over the last five years, there was one place it had not been spoken out loud until last summer – Dail Éireann.

That changed following the Fury announcement. 

The TD for Dublin Rathdown Neale Richmond used his parliamentary privilege to discuss Daniel Kinahan – a watershed moment for the cartel.

He said: “I join with Deputies Jim O’Callaghan, Darren O’Rourke and Ellis in expressing my already-expressed concerns about the connections with Daniel Kinahan and the major boxing fight between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.

“I welcome the comments from the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, that he has communicated with the British authorities and with the broadcasters. There is a lesson for the international press, in particular, to make sure it looks through the full details of what is going on in respect of the fight preparation and who is involved. I hope to see a change of tone and a bit of education.”

While the Kinahan cartel itself had been mentioned over a dozen times before in the Dáil, and ministers had skirted around the boxing connection, this was the first time Daniel had himself been named.

Following the airing of Panorama this week, Richmond contacted the UAE’s ambassador to Ireland to voice his concerns. 

In the letter, seen by TheJournal.ie, Richmond details Kinahan’s ties to criminality. 

He wrote:

In order to protect your citizens, as well as the wider sporting community, from the influence of Mr Kinahan, I would ask you if your Government is aware of Mr Kinahan and if you are happy to allow him to continue his efforts in your country?

Richmond has so far received no reply. 

general-election-ireland-2020 Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond. Source: Niall Carson via PA

Dubai and Kinahan 

Political and police attentions have now shifted firmly Dubai, which Kinahan has called home since 2017.

Multiple security sources have told TheJournal.ie that there have been “high-level” diplomatic talks regarding Kinahan with the Irish Government and the UAE in the intervening years. 

Gardaí have been sent to their own bureau in Dubai with the sole purpose of gathering information on the Kinahan crime group. 

Despite the garda presence and the high-level talks, Kinahan remained untouched as drug dealers around him in Dubai were arrested. 

“What is happening now is bigger than Daniel Kinahan,” one senior source explained. He described how Kinahan is an “important cog” in a machine that is being dismantled by international police forces spanning three continents. 

“There is a reason Daniel Kinahan is not in custody yet. That is all I can tell you.”

Kinahan remains in his Dubai bolthole today – but senior sources have said his days are numbered in the emirate. 

In December last year, Dutch police flew the country’s most wanted criminal out of Dubai two days after his arrest on murder and drug trafficking charges.

Ridouan Taghi, 41, who was wanted on international arrest warrants for murder and drug trafficking, was held at a house in the Gulf emirate.

Taghi hit the headlines in September when a Dutch lawyer for a state witness in a case against him was shot dead near his home in Amsterdam.

Taghi has long been considered part of a larger Europe-wide cartel, with links to the Kinahans.

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This so-called super cartel consists of Italian mob boss Raffaele Imperiale and Bosnian trafficker Edin Gacanin. The pair also reside in Dubai.

For years, this publication has attempted to obtain comment from the city’s police force or officials in its diplomatic channels regarding Kinahan’s residency. 

There has never been a reply.

Kinahan had attempted to rub shoulders with politically powerful forces around the Arabian peninsula. Police forces familiar with the cartel and its actions suspect this was a “Hail Mary” move by the suspected gangster who they believe was attempting to develop influential friends ahead of any potential deportation battle.

However, his attempts backfired and just served to increase his notoriety in the region. 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, speaking to TheJournal.ie this week, said that contact between the UAE and Ireland is ongoing in relation to Kinahan. 

He said “I know that there has been contact at Government level and also at garda level between authorities and authorities there, which you would obviously expect to happen.”

Garda work 

Gardaí in Dublin yesterday said they had no reason to believe assistance would not be forthcoming from their UAE counterparts. 

They also say they “stand prepared” for any gangland attacks, including any potential incident today. 

Assistant commissioner for organised and serious crime, John O’Driscoll said at a briefing yesterday that the force was prepared for incidents that might be carried out by either side in the feud.

“Whether it’s on an anniversary or at any other time, we stand prepared and hopefully we can get there before an event takes place.

“Unfortunately that’s not always the case, and then we must go into a mode where we have to have effective investigations into the serious injury or murder that has taken place.

“As you will be aware, there are many successful outcomes to those murder investigations also.”

He said that in the past two years, 65 people had been jailed for longer than five years each over organised crime convictions. 

He also hit out at what he called “fake news” disseminated by members of the Kinahan cartel 

These have included high budget re-enactments of the Regency shooting, which baselessly claim it was part of a conspiracy on behalf of the Gardai and the Irish government.

He said: “It goes beyond this jurisdiction, because I have seen, for example, bogus documents purporting to emanate from international law enforcement agencies.

“They have been circulated in what purports to be a book about organised crime.”

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said gardaí have made huge progress in tackling gangland crime. 

“What happened at the Regency Hotel in 2016 was a deplorable example of the ruthlessness of gangland criminals, where human life counts for nothing. For the last five years, we have fully supported An Garda Síochána in their efforts with unprecedented budgetary allocations.”

In 2020 alone, An Garda Síochána seized approximately €21m worth of drugs, 18 firearms, 365 rounds of ammunition and over €2.5m in cash in the period from January to the end of November.

McEntee also praised the work of An Garda Siochána in foiling planned attacks, pointing to 75 interventions which they believe saved lives since 2016. 

It is five years on from the Regency Hotel attack – the day when the rules of gangland changed forever. It was also the day the world started to become a much smaller place for Daniel Kinahan. 

Five years on and everybody knows his name – but for all the wrong reasons. 

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Garreth MacNamee

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