Revealed: How codenames and gang tip-offs from $5m bounty bring endgame closer for Kinahan cartel

The US ambassador Claire Cronin announces a reward up to $15m for information leading to the dismantling of the Kinahan cartel last month. Photo: Frank McGrath

Robin Schiller

The Kinahan hierarchy used a range of codenames to covertly conduct its drug enterprise and arrange murders. Codenames which were later cracked during international investigations into the gang.

Intelligence gathered by US officials says Daniel Kinahan runs the day-to-day operations and directs his lieutenants to “carry out smuggling” ventures and launder money which is “commingled” through legitimate businesses.

He is also suspected of using the proceeds of the drug trade to fund his boxing interests, a claim also made in a lawsuit filed against him by boxing manager Moses Heredia.

Authorities discovered that an alias regularly used by Daniel Kinahan to avoid detection was “Chess”.

But the cartel leader is now facing checkmate with crippling financial sanctions resulting in 600 people connected to him being banned from the US.

Sources say the 44-year-old used the name in encrypted communications to orchestrate gang business which includes drug shipments, arms trafficking, and murder.

He also ordered his subordinates to refer to him by codenames, which according to the US Department of State, also included “D” and “Cuz” to avoid incrimination.

The aliases were used in a bid to covertly direct a criminal enterprise across six continents – including sourcing drugs from South America, distributing them across Europe and as far as New Zealand.

He also conducted business in the US and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), all while trying to extend his tentacles into Sierra Leone. Official estimates put the Kinahan crime gang’s assets at €1bn.

However, the US sanctions imposed last month are now increasingly hampering the criminal organisation’s ability to operate, constraining it financially and disrupting its leader’s bid to legitimise himself.

Significant information has also been provided as part of the $5m bounty placed on the heads of each of the Kinahan hierarchy; brothers Daniel and Christy Jnr, and their father Christopher Snr.

US officials say Christy Jnr (41) – who used the codename ‘Mano’ – has access to the gang’s funds and the “ability to direct proceeds to persons and businesses outside of Dubai”. While the ‘Dapper Don’ founded the crime gang, he transitioned the leadership to his eldest son.

The UAE also imposed its own sanctions on the crime gang, following the US move which is continuing to impact on both the Kinahans and anyone connected to them.

Speaking in Washington DC over the weekend, Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll said that around 600 people have now been banned from the US because of their connections with the Kinahan gang.

The majority of these are involved in boxing, but a “wide range of other companies” associated with the Kinahans – which also face being banned in other countries – are also included

“Anyone who has any part to play in any of those companies will be prevented from entering the US,” Mr O’Driscoll told RTÉ News.

“We’re satisfied following our meetings here in Washington that there has been considerable interest in that reward scheme to the extent that it requires some logistics around the sharing of the information and evaluating each piece of it.

“The amount is significant. It ranges in quality, but certainly does offer the prospect of additional actions being taken by law enforcement across the globe.”

While the sanctions are affecting the running of the gang, work is ongoing in the background to bring charges against its leadership.

In Ireland, gardaí are continuing to build a case against the hierarchy, particularly Daniel Kinahan, who they will look to prosecute for directing an organised crime group and money laundering.

Due to the large amount of intelligence gathered by other agencies on the gang, the possibility of its membership facing charges in the US and other European countries is also strong.

Gardaí have already secured a warrant for the arrest of senior lieutenant Sean McGovern, wanted for the murder of Noel Kirwan in December 2016, as well as a foiled plot to murder Hutch associate James ‘Mago’ Gately in 2017.

The offensive has also impacted on the reputational damage which “Chess” has suffered on the global sports stage, with the boxing fraternity moving quickly to distance itself from him.

In the wake of the sanctions, World Boxing Council (WBC) president Mauricio Sulaiman Saldivar said he made an “innocent mistake” for offering his “full support” to Kinahan a month earlier.

Boxing promoter Bob Arum, who had described Kinahan as “honourable”, said he would not be conducting business with him anymore in light of the developments.

MTK Global, the boxing company founded by Kinahan as MGM in 2012, has also ceased operations as part of the fallout.

While around 600 people are currently facing the consequences of associating with the gang, the list is only expected to grow.

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