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Wed-handed Daniel Kinahan’s Dubai wedding party helped investigators identify 'super cartel' alliance

Kinahan's guest list for nuptials at luxury Burj al Arab forms crucial evidence against drug kings as series of secret text messages are unscrambled

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Daniel Kinahan is still holed up in Dubai.

Daniel Kinahan is still holed up in Dubai.

Daniel Kinahan celebrated his wedding at the plush Burj in Dubai

Daniel Kinahan celebrated his wedding at the plush Burj in Dubai

‘El Rico’ has been sentenced to 11 years.

‘El Rico’ has been sentenced to 11 years.

Assassin Fassih is in prison.

Assassin Fassih is in prison.

Ridouan Taghi is currently on trial in the Netherlands.

Ridouan Taghi is currently on trial in the Netherlands.

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Daniel Kinahan is still holed up in Dubai.

Daniel Kinahan's wedding at the seven-star Burj al Arab in Dubai was a focus point for investigators piecing together evidence from an underworld super-grass and secret text messages unscrambled six months after the nuptials.

The party in May 2017, attended by friends and associates of Kinahan, as well as senior underworld figures, happened as Dutch police began to investigate claims by a witness called Nabil B who linked underworld mobsters Ridouan Taghi, Ricardo Riquelme Vega, aka El Rico, caged assassin Noufal Fassih and Italian Camorra boss Raffaele Imperiale - who all attended the festivities.

Six months later, PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) messages discovered on a server in Canada provided the hard evidence that sealed the alliance of the 'super cartel' suspected of moving almost €30 billion of cocaine into Europe and which is now being used in the trial of the century in the Netherlands.

In a Crime World podcast, NRC journalist Jan Meeus, from Amsterdam, explains how the wedding could have been dismissed on its own as little more than evidence that the players, including Kinahan, knew one another.

But together with the phone hack and claims by Nabil B, it has become a significant piece of the jigsaw of an incredible boom period in the underworld which turned individual gangs into a narco force like no other.

The Marengo trial, currently underway in a courtroom known as The Bunker, is the biggest ever conducted in the Netherlands and is centred on Taghi, arrested in Dubai in December 2019, and 16 of his associates all accused of six gangland murders.

In a separate trial, El Rico, the Chilean, has recently been convicted of operating an assassin ring and laundering money. While he has received an 11-year sentence, Meeus explains that further charges may follow if Chilean and Dutch authorities can agree on extensions to the original extradition document that saw the criminal arrested in Santiago as the major investigation continued.

Under Dutch law, and at the time of his extradition, charges of murder could not be brought but that may change in time, he says.

In recent weeks, reports from the Netherlands have indicated that Nabil B, once part of Taghi's mob, has stopped talking and is in a standoff with authorities over his safety and security.

He has already lost a brother and his former lawyer Derk Wiersum, who were both assassinated in the run-up to the trial in an effort to derail the justice process. He has complained that his girlfriend is not being afforded enough security as he is due to give evidence at the Marengo trial.

However, according to Meeus, this may not be critical to the case as PGP messages accepted as evidence that convicted El Rico are also being used in Marengo, and will likely be enough to seal the fate of the so-called Mocro Mafia.

"The investigation really started running when Nabil B handed himself into a police station in early 2017," he explains. "He said that his life was threatened and he wanted to talk to police about underworld killings.

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The story behind that was that he was involved in organising a couple of them and in one case the wrong person was killed. It seemed they made a mistake during the shooting which seems to happen a lot here in the Netherlands in the past few years.

"The issue was that the person who got mistakenly killed was a member of a known Dutch Moroccan crime family in and around Utrecht.

"Nabil B knew him personally and knew his family as well. He was involved in organising the killing in that he sold a car to the shooters which they were going to use for the getaway.

"The family wanted to talk to him and know who was behind him. They wanted to know who ordered the killing and he was caught in a difficult situation.

"Eventually, he analysed that he either died or talked. So he decided to talk. This is the beginning of what we now know as 'Marengo'.

"He gave his statements between January and May of 2017. Later on, police captured a huge amount of information on PGP devices after two servers were discovered, one in Canada and one in Costa Rica. That was the first big crypto communication catches that the Dutch did. In that huge amount of messages was a lot of evidence supporting statements that Nabil B had made and was hard evidence against Taghi and his crew."

On the run, Taghi had attended the wedding of Kinahan and it was later heard when lawyers travelled to Dubai to meet him, undercover police watched as Daniel Kinahan arrived at the hotel reception instead.

The manhunt for Taghi only began in early 2018 - six months after the wedding and after officers had started to get a grasp of how Taghi, Fassih and El Rico had joined together as a national force in the Netherlands and as a global force with Kinahan and Imperiale, along with a Bosnian outfit known as the Tito and Dino cartel.

Imperiale had long been an associate of El Rico and they had worked together in the past. In 2016, Italian police found two stolen Van Gogh paintings on the kitchen wall of a house in the town of Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples, belonging to Imperiale. They were returned to a museum.

"Police realised that this was a layered criminal organisation. The Dutch trio had teamed up in the world of cocaine smuggling and also in underworld killings.

They all had their own business and drug lines but they worked together. So they had their own organisation and together they are considered a Dutch national criminal organisation.

"On top of that they were working as an even bigger organisation with Kinahan and others."

A total of 3.6 million messages were seized on the Ennetcom server in Canada, which provided the evidence for the relationships between the key figures.

"You have a situation that they are at the wedding. They are seen together but what does that mean other than they know one another?

"But then they see the messages exchanging between them and the investigators could really hear how and about what they communicate. A much clearer picture has emerged about their dealings."

  • The Marengo trial continues while the Jan Meeus interview on Crime World is available on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud and all podcast platforms.

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