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Cartel chief Daniel Kinahan befriends member of UAE monarchy as he eyes escape plan

Kinahan is under mounting pressure in the Gulf as law enforcement agencies across the globe continue to tighten the net around him

Daniel Kinahan

Nicola Tallant

Cartel boss Daniel Kinahan has befriended a member of a royal family in the UAE as he desperately tries to avoid extradition to Ireland to face justice.

The Irish Mafia chief's close friendship with the Emirate royal has been flagged up internationally as Kinahan pulls out all the stops to avoid being deported.

Kinahan is under mounting pressure in the Gulf as law enforcement agencies across the globe continue to tighten the net around him.

His involvement in brokering boxing tournaments and representing fighters is under investigation as part of a massive money laundering probe into his finances.

Drug seizure after drug seizure has also left a huge hole in Kinahan's finances from the drug dealing side of his business and he has told pals he is considering getting out of cocaine for good as the risk is so high.

In order to keep his massive organised crime empire on the road, sources say he has had to squeeze other elements of his business for vast funds.

Gangster-turned-boxing mogul Kinahan had thought he was home and dry when authorities in the United Arab Emirates refused a request by Italian law enforcement to hand over a senior boss in the Camorra Mafia - but his respite was short and sweet.

Raffaele Imperiale

A new request from the Public Prosecutor's Office in Naples for the extradition of Raffaele Imperiale is understood to have been accepted after the Italians included details of crimes they believe he committed, and the Supreme Court confirmed he has been sentenced to five years and 10 months since he escaped to Dubai.

The pending extradition of Imperiale from the Middle East is a final blow to Kinahan and his battle for long-term freedom in the UAE.

Aside from running a criminal organisation back in his native Italy, it is understood UAE authorities were told Imperiale ran his money-laundering operation from the Gulf and the application focused on his membership of Europe's so-called 'Super Cartel' along with Kinahan, Balkan mob boss Edin Gacanin and the caged Dutch mafia head Ridouan Taghi.

Nicknamed 'Lelluccio', Imperiale is now on a 'return' list and will soon be flown home to Italy, leaving Kinahan even more exposed in his desert bolthole, where he clings to the hope that his links to boxing will save him.

Ridouan Taghi

A record number of wanted international fugitives were arrested last year in the UAE and repatriated. Among them was Leon Cullen, wanted in the UK on suspicion of drug and gun offences and jailed in December for 22 years.

Emirati authorities say 145 international fugitives were brought to justice during 2021 due to co-operation between national governments, police and Interpol.

Back in Italy, Imperiale faces two different orders. He is already convicted of drug trafficking and is believed to have been given a light five-year sentence for his 'collaboration' in the recovery of two Van Gogh paintings.

The masterpieces were taken from a museum in Amsterdam in 2002 and discovered in a property owned by Imperiale in 2016.

Back on European soil, he will also face charges in relation to his role in drug trafficking in Italy and Europe during his time in Dubai.

Edin Gacanin

Imperiale was arrested last August as he basked by a swimming pool at his luxury villa in Dubai. He was with his family when police swooped and found him with a Russian passport.

A video of his arrest was released by Dubai police to the international media.

However, when his extradition was turned down, concerns rose that he would be welcome to live out his days in the Middle East.

Instead, UAE authorities just looked for further information to satisfy the return application, and that was rubber-stamped when the Italian Supreme Court confirmed he is currently a fugitive.

In the meantime, Daniel Kinahan has been doubling down on his efforts to 'sports wash' his reputation as the clock ticks on his own arrest.

He has also attempted to devise an escape plan should he believe he is to be arrested, and has set up a temporary safe zone in Muscat, the capital of Oman.

Meanwhile, his former company MTK has wound down some of its operations in the wake of other promotions and management companies popping up in recent years and growing at breakneck speed.

A number of people previously associated with MTK have gone out on their own.

Kinahan was previously linked to sports fixing when he formed part of an investigation into betting on horses. He was mentioned in jockey Kieren Fallon's high-profile race-fixing trial in November 2007, but was never charged.

Gary Finnegan (right) has joined Daniel Kinahan in Dubai in the past year

In Dubai, Kinahan has been running his mafia in exactly the same way as he did in Spain. The mob is run in cell-like structures, each headed up by a separate lieutenant, none of whom know what the other is doing.

Gang members use a high-spec car rental company to change motors every few days and only converse using code names in order to thwart any surveillance on them.

In the past year Bernard Clancy has joined Kinahan in Dubai along with Gary Finnegan, who were original members of his mob which first hit the Costa in the early 2000s to make their fortune from drugs.

The mob has become so vast in its business dealings that it is estimated it costs more than €1 million a month to run, resulting in huge cashflow issues for the under-pressure Kinahan.

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