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Clash of the Clans Nicola Tallant book extract: The day I came face-to-face with mob boss Daniel Kinahan

"I'd met plenty of criminals in my time - but the Kinahan crew were different… ruthless, cruel and immoral"

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Daniel Kinahan

Daniel Kinahan

Nicola Tallant -  Clash of the Clans

Nicola Tallant - Clash of the Clans

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Daniel Kinahan

When a boxing weigh-in turns into a gangland bloodbath, the powerful Irish mafia splits and two clans go to war.

But while the battle lines may be firmly drawn, things aren’t quite as clear in the murky underworld where double crosses, dirty tricks and deceit form an intricate tapestry as neighbour turns on neighbour and loyalty has no place.

In Clash of the Clans: The Rise of the Irish Narcos and Boxing’s Dirty Secret, the Sunday World’s Investigations Editor Nicola Tallant delves into the dangerous world of gangland on her own journey of discovery.

There she finds a golden era of cocaine which turned a brat pack of Dublin street dealers into an international mafia.

Clash of the Clans by Nicola Tallant is available in all bookshops, on Audible and to download for Kindle.

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Daniel Kinahan leaves court in Estepona after his arrest

Daniel Kinahan leaves court in Estepona after his arrest

Daniel Kinahan leaves court in Estepona after his arrest

“I had spent the night tossing and turning, with one eye on the neon numbers on the clock beside my bed while my brain dished out warnings to my body, ordering it to relax and sleep.

It was always that way when I had an early flight to catch, no matter how many times I travelled. And of course I made it. As I always did. With plenty of time.

Time to buy a sandwich. Those 7am flights are great when you actually get there and are standing at the gate ready to depart, a whole day ahead of you at your destination and a sense of smugness about those still in bed just fumbling for a snooze button.

The Dublin to Malaga flight on Aer Lingus is pretty much always full, even during the winter months.

My fellow passengers were mainly older couples, no doubt heading out to their villas or apartments on the Costa, where they would bask under the Spanish sun in resorts that were quieter now that the summer tourists had packed up and left.

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I wandered over towards the kiosk that sold panini in plastic, large blue muffins in cellophane packaging and sandwiches in triangular boxes. Everyone looked bored, as people do in airports. I picked up a cheese and ham on brown bread. It looked very unappetising but would do.

Two coffees. One black. One latte. The photographer was grateful as he saw me wandering back towards our seats with one in each hand. His giant backpack was heavy, filled with cameras, back-up batteries, wide angle and long lenses, tripods and lighting equipment — and he would have foregone the coffee rather than lug it up the terminal to the shop. “Thanks.” We didn’t need to do small talk.

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Gary Hutch

Gary Hutch

Gary Hutch

We were well used to one another’s company. We were used to waiting. Sitting. Watching. To long silences. We had soldiered together long enough.

I must have shifted in my seat. Probably to pick through my handbag for the umpteenth time. At the departure gate something caught my eye. Familiar. Out of place here in this sea of ordinary. Double grey. And then leather. Chocolate brown. I turned my head. A queue had started to gather at the Gold Circle Line for the Business Class passengers.

There were a few men in smart casual with briefcases, a woman in a sharp business suit, a smattering of well-to-do couples with matching designer carry-on luggage and then there were the three.

They came into my vision all together. The burly beefcake with the orange skin squeezing the zips of his Canada Goose jacket, the girl with the brown hair and impossibly long pink acrylic nails and the other guy in a grey tracksuit, wearing a baseball cap pulled right down over his eyes. The Louis Vuitton bag at his feet. Chocolate brown.

I looked harder and could see the huge gold watch weighing heavy on his wrist. The cap was Hugo Boss. He looked up. We locked eyes. I held my ground. Daniel Kinahan, the boss of the largest organised drug gang to ever come out of Ireland, knew me and I knew him. I’d been writing about him for years.

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Gary Hutch was shot eight times at the Angel de Miraflores complex in Spain

Gary Hutch was shot eight times at the Angel de Miraflores complex in Spain

Gary Hutch was shot eight times at the Angel de Miraflores complex in Spain

I was standing in an airport with a coffee in a cardboard cup because of him. And we were about to board a flight together to Spain, to the seat of his power and to the place where his one-time best friend had just been shot dead, left in a pool of blood on a pavement at the prime of his life.

The murder of Gary Hutch just 24 hours previously had shaken the foundations of the Irish criminal underworld. Not only had Hutch been a senior lieutenant in the Irish mafia but he was also the nephew of the legendary Gerry ‘the Monk’ Hutch.

The announcement that we were boarding was shrill. Kinahan grinned and picked up his bag, probably worth more than I would earn on my mission to find out what had happened to Hutch. His giant Rolex watch could probably pay my salary for a whole year. That’s drug money for you.

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Paddy Doyle

Paddy Doyle

Paddy Doyle

I waited as the Gold Circle passengers were called to board. Kinahan and his pals elbowed their way to the front. He was nothing like his father. He didn’t look like an international businessman. He looked like a drug dealer in double grey.

As we flew 30,000 feet over France and on towards Spain, I chewed on the ham and cheese sandwich and pondered. I know that organised crime is a violent and a ruthless world, I write about it all the time. But surely Kinahan couldn’t have been feeling too good. The callous and cold assassination of Hutch, his one-time wingman, must have been weighing on him.

I couldn’t restrain my curiosity much longer and I certainly wasn’t in any mood to doze. I unlocked my seatbelt and shuffled past the photographer who raised an eyebrow to me in warning as I indicated I was just needing the bathroom.

At the entrance to Business Class, opposite the doors of the toilets, I started to stretch my legs and looked around to make sure nobody was watching. The passengers’ heads nodded from side to side. Some slept on travel pillows, others were lost in books.

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Gary Hutch’s coffinis removed at his funeral in 2016

Gary Hutch’s coffinis removed at his funeral in 2016

Gary Hutch’s coffinis removed at his funeral in 2016

I pulled back the curtain just enough to see in and scanned the backs of the huge armchairs. I spotted the unmistakable balding head of the son and heir of the Kinahans’ estimated £1 billion drug fortune. He was lying back, shoes off, feet up and busy on his mobile phone. The baseball cap was in his hand ready at all times to be placed back on his head, a comfort blanket of sorts.

He and Gary Hutch had been inseparable once. They’d shared everything from prostitutes to a rented villa in their adopted

home in southern Spain, where every ambitious gangster goes to graduate. They were part of a club, a brat pack and later a mob which rivalled the mafias on the Costa Del Crime.

I’d met plenty of criminals in my time and found that many of them were decent underneath a hard exterior, some just wanted to provide for their families the only way they knew how. But the Kinahan crew were different. Ruthless. Cruel. Immoral.

And Hutch had been one of them, so trusted in the belly of the Kinahan organisation that when the Irish mafia decided to finish with Dublin hitman Paddy Doyle years previously, it was he who had lured his childhood pal into the trap. Hutch had escaped unharmed when their Jeep came under attack — because that was the plan.

Doyle had died and Hutch had returned to Dublin to carry his coffin and claim to his parents that the Russians were to blame.

To nail down the pretence, Daniel Kinahan had offered the money to pay for the funeral. Hutch was no saint. He’d lived by the sword and he died by the sword. That he had likely suffered the same fate, the same type of double cross at the hands of his own, was pretty clear. But his death wouldn’t be forgotten like Doyle’s. His would be avenged. There was no doubt.

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Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch

Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch

Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch

The ins and outs of what had happened lay somewhere out there in Spain. In front of me, Kinahan looked like the cat who had got the cream. Comfortable in his mile-high alibi, it seemed to me that death, just like his seat, was simply business.

The plane landed and quickly the Business Class passengers were allowed to disembark as the rest of us remained in our seats so as not to get in their way.

There is something quite grounding about that class structure that exists on planes. You get what you pay for. You pay for what you can afford and your fellow passengers can read and judge you accordingly. They left quickly, one after the other. First off was double grey. The brown leather bag swung at his side. The hat was back on his head.

I wanted to see how he left the airport, although I knew he would probably be long gone by the time those of us in economy were allowed to disembark.

The bag with the cameras was awkward but we were glad we hadn’t put it in the hold. We walked as fast as we could without running to passport control and onwards to the arrivals area, where I just caught a flash of the bag, the grey tracksuit bottoms, across the hall at a stairwell. The beefcake and the girl were gone but there was

another guy with him now. He looked Spanish, maybe, dark. They both had their phones in their hands and they were looking back towards me.

I turned my head back to arrivals and dramatically looked at my watch, then up to the screens above, which announced the times of flights landing into Malaga from all over the world. The photographer kept an eye. He watched them watching me. The Spaniard took Kinahan’s bag and gave him a shoulder hug. They laughed. And then they jogged up the steps and out into the Spanish sun.

We waited for a while, wandering around the airport and doubling back on ourselves a few times to make sure we weren’t being followed. We’d been here before and we knew all about the Kinahan spotters and if we were going to get any work done at all we certainly didn’t want company.

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Daniel Kinahan chats with Liam Brannigan at a Matthew Macklin weigh-in at the Citywest Hotel

Daniel Kinahan chats with Liam Brannigan at a Matthew Macklin weigh-in at the Citywest Hotel

Daniel Kinahan chats with Liam Brannigan at a Matthew Macklin weigh-in at the Citywest Hotel

Later, we made our way down the coast and found the Angel de Miraflores complex where Gary Hutch had met his end on a Thursday morning. Discarded crime scene tape fluttered

in the breeze but the investigators were gone and all that was left were the tiny hints of the horror that had occurred.

We mooched around the dark and lonely car park underneath the complex of apartments where a gunman had waited for the 34-year-old to step outside into the blazing sun. We followed the path around the shared swimming pool where Hutch had run for his life, his killer in hot pursuit firing again and again.

We saw the gate he had been trying to get to as, one by one, the bullets came. We stopped at the spot where it had ended, where he was when the eighth bullet ripped through the back of his head. Expat pensioners had fled and shut their doors as the terrible noises began. What else could they have done? No human is a match for a gun.

Reluctantly, they told me of what had happened, how the gunman had run to a getaway car waiting on the road above.

How he had got tired halfway up the hill and started to casually walk. How he had let himself out through the electric gates and had left in what looked like a waiting BMW car. Some had got pictures on their phones while the ambulances were called and later when the Guardia Civil made their marks around his body and circled the bullet holes and casings nearby. “They sold theirs to the Sun newspaper... disgusting,” one woman whispered as she nodded to a balcony nearby.

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Christy Kinahan

Christy Kinahan

Christy Kinahan

A couple peered down through the foliage. Nobody knew Gary Hutch or anything about him. He had clearly kept himself to himself in the time he was living in the complex. It was nice but pretty basic, a far cry from the villa he had once shared with Daniel Kinahan. That evening we spoke with contacts who told us that Gary deserved to die. “He was a rat,” they said.

I wondered what had happened to the deal I had heard that his uncle, the legendary criminal known as The Monk, had forged with Kinahan’s father, ‘The Dapper Don’.

The offspring may have fallen out but the Godfathers had stepped in, or so we had been led to believe.

The story had been like a game of Chinese whispers since it first emerged in Dublin. There were allegations of police being tipped off about drug shipments, of routes into the UK being busted by cops and of Gary Hutch being tested with false information. There was a bank robbery, a pyramid scheme and deals with the Russians. Some said €100,000 had been paid for peace, many said twice that, while others said no money had changed hands at all. There were reports of punishment shootings, intimidation and double crosses.

Most people I asked seemed to have their own theory, but one thing that everyone agreed on was the terrifying possibilities of a fallout between two powerful criminal families like the Hutch and the Kinahan clans — which had the propensity to divide a city, have ripple effects across Europe and punch right into the heart of professional boxing.

This was the proverbial story with legs, the train to God knows where and, as I contemplated what the future would hold, I realised I was already aboard.

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