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What Next?

Strapped for cash, desperate and cornered: What next for the Kinahan cartel?

It’s extradition or escape.

THE KINAHAN CARTEL has been a focus of international police forces for a long time now.

But the last two weeks have seen one of the most feared and wealthy drugs gangs in the world morph into a bunch of criminals on the run from the authorities, unable to access their own bank accounts and running out of places to hide. 

The house of cards began to topple earlier this month in Dublin’s City Hall, where Daniel Kinahan, Christy Kinahan Snr and Christy Jnr all had bounties placed on their heads for information leading to their arrest or conviction. 

The rewards – amounting to up to $5 million US dollars for each of the three Kinahan family members – are being offered by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The City Hall announcement was made by gardaí in conjunction with the DEA, the UK’s National Crime Agency and Europol. 

Brian E Nelson, a senior US official, said prior to the City Hall announcement that the cartel “smuggles deadly narcotics, including cocaine, to Europe, and is a threat to the entire licit economy through its role in international money laundering”. 

The range of their empire was laid bare for the world’s media to see. The businesses which they used to wash cash were unveiled and sanctions were imposed on those firms. 

Daniel Kinahan had been attempting for years to rebrand himself as an innocent boxing promoter. The City Hall announcement extinguished any flicker of hope he had that that tactic might succeed.

Many thought this was the death knell for the cartel. Then Thursday happened.

The United Arab Emirates announced it was freezing both the corporate and personal assets of members of the Kinahan gang who are living there. 

If ever there was a knockout blow for Daniel et al, it was this.

But what now for the gang? 

Now, their personal bank accounts are frozen. If Daniel wants to take out some dirhams to do his shopping, he won’t be able to. If he needs to pay his security detail, he can’t. 

Cash flow has always been an issue for the gang since it moved across to Dubai, once Spain became too dangerous a place to keep its HQ. The Kinahans had made Marbella its first international headquarters after leaving Dublin nearly a decade ago.

This is where Daniel set up what would become MTK Global, a boxing promotion company which this week ceased activity.

The cartel had initially relied on money mules – people who would bring in bundles of euro and sterling on international flights on the gang’s behalf. Then, as time progressed, the gang was able to set up its various businesses and shell companies to run their money through. 

But now, that cash can’t be touched. 

Multiple sources have told The Journal that they expect an influx of “visitors” to the UAE in the coming days bringing money for the gang. What Daniel and his family need is cash and they need it quick.

kinahan-crime-gang Garda Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll speaking at Dublin City Hall after it was announced that the US government is offering five million dollars for information on the Irish Kinahan crime gang. PA PA

Gardaí, the UK’s National Crime Agency and other international police forces will be keeping a close eye on their respective airports for suspicious activity involving cash. 

The Kinahans are now unable to access their money, desperate, and backed into a corner – something which makes their behaviour very unpredictable, according to security sources. 

Extradition or Escape

These are unprecedented times. For years, the UAE has effectively sheltered this criminal gang, as well as multiple other organised crime gangs from all four corners of the world.

Multiple attempts have been made by The Journal to contact Dubai police, the Interior Ministry of the emirate as well as Dubai’s anti money laundering task force. We have repeatedly asked if they were aware Daniel Kinahan was living in the emirate and if they are working with the Irish or other international authorities to arrest him. We received no reply.

In fact, this publication has been attempting to get a comment from the UAE’s government and police force for several years, all with no success. 

Dubai has been known as a criminal’s playground for well over a decade. Italian mafia figures, Moroccan drug lords and Serbian drug gang leaders have all made the emirate their home. 

It has become known as a place where money will guarantee protection from most things, including prosecution. The year-round sunshine as well as the wealth of the emirate itself has made it an attractive destination for criminals. Dubai’s seeming reluctance (until recently) to interfere in the business of serious criminal enterprises is another reason as to why criminals stay here. 

However, in the last three years, there have been some notable extraditions – something which will be playing on the minds of the senior members of the Kinahan gang around now. 

Ridouan Taghi, a Moroccan-Dutch man and an associate of Daniel Kinahan, was extradited from Dubai to the Netherlands. He is facing multiple murder charges in the Netherlands. 

Raffaele Imperiale, a leader of the feared Camorra (mafia) drug gang in Italy and another associate of Daniel Kinahan, was arrested in Dubai in August of last year.  He is now facing extradition. 

Questions have been asked about the legalities of extraditing the Kinahans from Dubai.

Is it possible? Yes. Is it plausible? A lot more so now. 

Even usually tight-lipped members of Ireland’s security services are beginning to come around to the idea that we may see members of the nation’s most infamous criminal gang in an Irish court before too long. 

There remains a thorny diplomatic issue to contend with. Previous attempts to engage with the Dubai authorities had proven tricky for An Garda Síochána. However, with the input of the USA at that pivotal Dublin City Hall announcement, the pressure has now been heaped on the UAE to capture the Kinahans and hand them over to the relevant authorities. 

If you’re one of the Kinahans right now, you’re looking to escape – and escape quickly. 

But where to? Most of the entire world is off limits. Even going to an international airport runs the risk of some form of detention. 

The Kinahans have three realistic locations to try to regroup and evade detection: Russia, Macau and South Africa. The reason for these locations is that the gang has connections in each of these regions. The link in Macau and South Africa is property. Russia is where they have various drug gang associates and looks the most realistic option for them, according to informed sources. 

The Kinahan cartel have been planning in case this day ever came. That doesn’t mean that they are fully prepared, however. Daniel has been trying to make friends in high places in several nations close to the UAE in recent times in case he needed to flee.

Even recently, he was pictured standing beside Rai Taimoor Khan Bhatti, a former provincial minister for Sports and Youth Affairs in the government for Punjab

Kinahan had also attempted to gain favour in the Kingdom of Bahrain. In 2020, he rubbed shoulders with the son of Bahrain’s king, when he became a special advisor to a sports company called KHK. 

His links to Bahrain were severed after pressure was put on KHK. 

For now, what we know for sure is this: the Kinahan gang is trapped in Dubai and their next move will either see them flee to another nation or end up ultimately being brought to face justice in a court in Dublin. 

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