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Pressure mounts on Kinahan cartel as EU places UAE on money-laundering ‘blacklist’

The Kinahan cartel’s days in the sun appear to be drawing to a close

Christy Kinahan

Daniel Kinahan at a Matthew Macklin weigh-in at Citywest

Officers find cocaine from a container on the MSC Gayane

The MSC Gayane

Ridouan Taghi

Edin Gacanin

Eamon DillonSunday World

The Kinahan cartel’s days in the sun appear to be drawing to a close after the EU placed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on a money-laundering ‘blacklist’

The European Commission added the Gulf State to its register of countries considered high risk for money laundering and terrorist financing.

The move was announced by EU financial services commissioner Mairead McGuinness, who said the EU are targeting countries that have “deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing frameworks.”

The rules impose severe restrictions on any financial dealings between individuals or businesses in the Middle Eastern country and the EU.

The move comes after months of political pressure to stop criminals such as Christopher Kinahan Sr and his sons Daniel and Christy Jr using the tax haven.

Officers find cocaine from a container on the MSC Gayane

The extent of the Kinahans’ business dealings in the desert kingdom was laid bare when it was announced they were being sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Asset Control.

A number of firms based in luxurious office suites in Dubai were listed as being a front for their international drug dealing activities.

Transparency International last September wrote to the EU Commission urging tighter controls on financial dealings with the UAE.

“The ability of the EU to combat money laundering is significantly diminished if criminals can simply transfer their wealth to other jurisdictions such as UAE,” Transparency International said.

The presence of Russian oligarchs in the UAE attempting to hide their assets from EU and US sanctions has also fuelled the political campaign to tighten financial controls there.

Special Agent Wendy Woolock from the US Drug Enforcement Agency Special Operations Division said at the announcement of the sanctions last April that the Kinahans operate from Dubai with apparent impunity.

Daniel Kinahan at a Matthew Macklin weigh-in at Citywest

“For years they have used intimidation, influence and money to destroy towns by pouring drugs into the streets,” she said.

“They prey and profit from addicted vulnerable people while they enjoy lavish lifestyles in Dubai.”

Further revelations in 2022 showed how Kinahan Sr passed himself off as an aviation broker and consultant in an audacious bid to set up an airline transporting cocaine from Africa to the EU’s borders.

Through a series of front companies, he attempted to buy second-hand aircraft from the Egyptian military, and also ran an air ambulance service.

Meanwhile, the US is maintaining its effort to get its hands on the Kinahans, who have a bounty of $5 million each on their heads.

The Sunday Worldpreviously revealed how it is likely that there is already a sealed indictment from US courts in which criminal charges are listed against the Kinahans.

The MSC Gayane

So far, eight people have been jailed – all crew members on board the massive cargo ship MSC Gayane which docked in Philadelphia en route to Europe in 2019. The $1.5 billion cargo had been hidden on the ship after the drugs were loaded on to the ship at sea near the coast of Peru.

The shipment is believed to have been organised by the super-cartel which included the Kinahans as well as Balkans mobster Edin Gacanin, Camorra boss Raffaele Imperiale and Dutch Moroccan criminal Ridouan Taghi.

New details of the US move against the plot to ship the cocaine consignment to Europe show the huge resources which have been put into the operation against the criminal consortium.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, US and European authorities had already been tracking the Balkans mob’s method of planting insiders among the crew of massive container ships.

Ridouan Taghi

As the ship sailed south off the coast of Peru, the ship was met by at least six speedboats, according to court records.

The same operation was carried out by the smugglers when the MSC Gayane was making its return journey north via the Panama Canal and on to the US.

When it arrived into the bay off Philadelphia the Americans were waiting. Three patrol boats and a helicopter approached the ship, and a team of law enforcement officers climbed aboard.

The crew was rounded up and swabbed for cocaine and the search of containers above deck was immediately started.

When the ship was docked where 100 more agents were waiting, it was decided to unload all of the 4,000 containers on board.

In all, 20 tons of cocaine in the form of 15,000 bricks were found hidden in seven of the containers.

While the ship’s crew who had been involved have all been convicted, the investigation is still ongoing and last October saw the arrest of former heavyweight boxer Goran Gogic, who is accused of involvement.

The 43-year-old Montenegrin fighter was arrested at Miami International Airport on October 31.


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