Anthony Alfredo Martínez Meza was arrested this week in Dubai as part of an international police operation targeting Europe’s super-cartel.
Martínez is suspected of being the connection who arranged to get Colombian cocaine shipped into Europe.
Spanish police say the group managed to send 10 tons of cocaine worth €760 million through the country in just two years.
According to local media, Martínez operated under the radar in Panama for many years and was the registered owner of a number of legitimate companies in the seaport of Colon.
It is claimed Martinez – who used the alias ‘Hassan’ in encrypted phone messages – struck a deal with Daniel Kinahan in 2017 after the arrest of Peruvian drugs lord Ricardo ‘El Rico’ Riquelme.
The duo are believed to have invested in mega-shipments, including the one containing almost 18 tons of cocaine seized in Philadelphia en route to Antwerp and Rotterdam in 2019.
In a week where key partner Edin ‘Tito’ Gacanin – dubbed the ‘Balkans Escobar’ – was arrested in Dubai, Christy Kinahan Snr is also the focus of an outstanding criminal case in Spain.
Since last April, the options open to Kinahan Snr and sons Daniel and Christopher were hugely reduced by the United States’ sanctions against them along with a $5 million reward for their arrests.
While Tito’s arrest grabbed the headlines, it is the arrests targeting the Kinahans’ ability to stay in business that will hurt the most.
With money-launderer Johnny Morrissey already behind bars, it meant that Ryan James Hale’s arrest as part of Operation Desert Light is another tight squeeze on Kinahan’s vital cash flow.
British national Hale (32) was among six arrested in Dubai and is wanted by Spanish authorities.
One arm of the criminal network, of which Hale is alleged to be boss, was devoted to laundering the gang’s drug money.
The investigation into him in Spain started with a massive cocaine seizure in 2020, with more evidence being gleaned when French and Belgian police cracked an encrypted messaging service used by the gang.
Spanish police later identified Hale as the personsending messages to find out if the €53 million consignment had been stolen by a rival gang or found by the police.
Hale was described as living in luxury in Marbella where profits were invested in mansions, jewellery and top-end sports cars, including a €300,000 Lamborghini.
Significantly, the Kinahans are the only senior members of the super cartel who remain free since the syndicate were first observed together for Daniel’s 2017 wedding at Burj Al Arab hotel.
A US Drug Enforcement Administration report, details of which were first published by the Bosnian news outlet Istraga in 2019, identified the members of the super cartel.
These included Raffaele Imperiale, now facing serious criminal charges in Italy after his arrest and extradition from Dubai.
Also arrested in Dubai was Ridouan Taghi, now on trial in The Netherlands for ordering murders as the head of a drugs gang.
And Dutch-Chilean Ricardo ‘El Rico’ Riquelme Vega, extradited to The Netherlands from South America, is serving 11 years for his leading role in a gang that planned murders and also for money-laundering.
This week, it emerged that the fourth main player, Edin Gacanin, had been lifted by authorities in Dubai, who have begun co-operating more closely with European police forces through Europol.
Kinahan Snr now has to contend with a Spanish case in which he is facing a charge of using a false passport since his 2010 arrest as part of Operation Shovel in that country.
Prosecutors are seeking four years prison for him, and it has the effect of reducing the number of countries where he can hide.
The super cartel is suspected of shipping a third of all cocaine into Europe in recent years, worth €30 billion, according to some estimates.