Summons Christy Kinahan may not have to attend Spanish passport fraud trial
Crime godfather Christy Kinahan may not have to attend his Spanish passport fraud trial.
State prosecutors have yet to submit their indictment after the 63-year-old was told by a Spanish judge he faced trial for allegedly using a falsified travel document despite being told he was not being charged with criminal association and money laundering.
Kinahan has been warned he faces a maximum of three years in prison under Spanish law if convicted.
But the time he spent behind bars on remand after his May 2010 Operation Shovel arrest, believed to be around six months, will be taken into consideration.
Christy snr is one of only five of the original 31 Shovel detainees facing charges after his sons Daniel and Christopher and Guinness kidnapper John Cunningham were told they would not be tried for money laundering and criminal association.
And today, it emerged that if prosecutors end up seeking a prison sentence of less than two years for Christy ahead of his trial, the convicted drug dealer could remain at his Middle East bolthole and be excused from having to show his face in a Malaga court-room.
A well-placed legal source confirmed: “In Spain a person prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of less than two years for if convicted, does not have to appear at trial as long as they receive their trial summons.
“Providing that summons is received, the trial can go ahead in your absence.
“You don’t even have to inform the court you’re not going to attend.
“Only in very exceptional cases do courts make attendance at a trial obligatory in cases where the maximum punishment prosecutors are seeking is a prison sentence of less than two years.”
Prosecutors say they have yet to receive a court request to formulate their indictment and have said nothing publicly so far about the sentence they will seek.
It had been thought the case would reach trial sometime next year.
But chief prosecutor Julio Martinez Carazo, who on Tuesday spoke of his “disappointment” over the Kinahan case, predicted today it could be a year and a half to two years away.
Asked about speculation Kinahan’s lawyers could seek a plea bargain deal ahead of trial, Mr Carazo said: “Plea bargain deals are very normal.
“They save the state money and time. The Spanish state prosecution services never rules them out for anyone.
Christy Kinahan and two other men, Robert Edward Phillips and James Gregory Naughton, face trial for passport fraud.
Jasvinder Singh Kamoo faces trial for using fake number plates on a Mercedes.
And a fifth man, Ross Browning, is facing trial for unlawful possession of a weapon.
A seven-page court ruling which finally puts light at the end of the tunnel more than a decade after the Operation Shovel arrests, made public a fortnight ago, says the judicial investigation has uncovered “sufficient evidence” Christy Kinahan “used a false passport to travel from Madrid’s Barajas Airport to Rio in Janeiro in Brazil on April 30 2010.
It adds: “To be specific, he used a British passport in the name of Michael Leslie Swift.
“This travel document was allegedly used by the suspect to reserve the air ticket, obtain the boarding card and pass through a police checkpoint.”
It also says inquiries have shown there are “justified reasons” to consider suspects Robert Edward Phillips and James Gregory Naughton were identified by police by a tunnel close to a luxury residential estate in Behavis near Marbella moments before another passport was found in a taped-up lunch box.
The travel document was an Irish passport in the name of Thomas Richard Hasset in which a photograph of Christy Kinahan had been inserted.
The gun Ross Browning has been charged over was a Glock 19 pistol found at his home in Benahavis near Marbella on May 27 2010 with the serial number erased.
Jasvinger Singh Kamoo’s charge relates to false number plates found on a Mercedes C180 at his home.
The court ruling, identifying the men only by their first names and the initials of their middle names and surnames, states: “These facts could constitute two alleged crimes of fraud by Christopher VK, an alleged crime of fraud by Robert EP, an alleged crime of fraud by James GN, an alleged crime of fraud by Jasvinder SK, and an alleged crime of unlawful weapons possession by Ross GB.”
Explaining why no charges of money laundering or criminal association were being brought against any of the men and women under formal investigation for the past ten years, the court ruling states: “Although it’s obvious from the lengthy police and court probe, documentation and testimonies that there are reasonable grounds to suspect those people investigated formed part of a criminal network to launder the proceeds of a criminal activity of drugs and weapons trafficking, it has not been possible under Spanish law to obtain evidence that could link the crime of money laundering which formed part of the investigation with a previous criminal activity.”
On Tuesday Mr Carazo, Head of Prosecution for the Marbella area of Spain’s Costa del Sol, made his first comments on the case since it emerged most of the original 31 Operation Shovel detainees were in the clear.
Prosecutors had to abandon plans to try them for money laundering after failing to get a response from the UK to formal requests for information they first sent in a rogatory commission nearly ELEVEN years ago in December 2009.
The requests were reiterated four times over seven years from May 2011 but never yielded the documents the Spanish wanted, according to Spanish prosecutors.
The UK failure to respond, certainly initially, is believed to be the result of concern Spain would try suspects involved in a British police investigation and double jeopardy rules preventing people from being prosecuted twice for the same charges could come into play.
Cyprus, Ireland and Brazil all answered requests sent to them but none said they had found any evidence of money laundering by the Kinahan cartel.
Mr Carazo said: “The rogatory commission sent to the UK was the most important one for me.
“I can’t say for sure there would have been a money laundering trial if our request had been properly answered but the simple fact is, we never got that information and so we’ll never know.
“I feel disappointment due to the lack of a definitive result despite the prolonged investigation we’ve carried out in Spain and the lack of agility in the communication between the competent Spanish and UK authorities.
“The co-operation between Spain and the UK in these matters is normally much more fluid.”