The U.S. crackdown on the largest Irish drug trafficking organization

The United States joins efforts with Ireland in taking down the most important drug trafficking organization in the country managed by the Kinahans.

The rewards of the three Kinahan family members leaders of the KOCG
The rewards of the three Kinahan family members and leaders of the KOCG

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on April 11 designated the Kinahan Organized Crime Group (KOCG) as a key target in the fight against criminal activities, similar to the Camorra in Italy or the Yakuza in Japan.

The Treasury Department added to its list of Specially Designated Nationals the three leaders of the Kinahan drug cartel and sanctioned four other associates and three companies linked to the criminal organization.

For U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson, “the Kinahan Organized Crime Group smuggles deadly narcotics, including cocaine, to Europe, and is a threat to the entire licit economy through its role in international money laundering”.

With the sanctions, American banks and companies are not allowed to do business with the listed individuals and the listed companies. All assets related to the KOCG located in the U.S. or owned by U.S. citizens must be blocked. The crackdown would limit their capacity of laundering money and aims at the financial disruption of their activities. Using U.S. dollars becomes more difficult. Targets will not be able to fly on U.S. airlines either.

Commissioner of Ireland National Police Drew Harris said during a joint media briefing in Dublin with the OFAC, Europol and the U.K. National Crime Agency that “today is a landmark day in the fight against organized crime”. From now on, the KOCG will be “running low on money, friends, and influence”. The move is made in collaboration with several European law enforcement agencies actively searching to take down the drug cartel.

Emerged in the late 1990s, Kinahan’s family business is now considered as the most powerful organized crime group operating in Ireland, according to the OFAC. They mainly sell cocaine sourced from South America and heroin in Ireland, the UK and across Europe. The estimated profit of the organization reached more than $1 billion.

The KOCG is managed by Christopher Kinahan and his two sons Daniel and Christopher Jr. The father’s multiple stays in prison in Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium would have helped him build a network for starting its criminal organization.

The U.S. also offers rewards totaling $15 million for information leading to the capture of the three Kinahans, $5 million for each family member.

The KOCG operates mostly in Ireland but is also present in the United Kingdom, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. Pressured by Irish and Spanish law enforcement, the three now live in Dubai, which acts as a hub for their operation.

The U.A.E., which doesn’t have an extradition agreement with Ireland, is known to be letting criminals use its flourishing real estate market as a safe haven for their money.

Daniel Kinahan is said to be managing the day-to-day operation, with all members of the criminal group reporting to him. Never convicted, Daniel Kinahan has also become a prominent figure in the world of boxing even posting pictures with famous boxers like Tyson Fury, which has all the more frustrated Irish authorities. He owns a home in the luxurious Palm Jumeirah, an artificial island shaped like a palm tree in Dubai.

The Treasury Department lists the various home addresses and genuine and fake identity documents they know about the wanted men.

The announcement marks a change by putting the three men in the spotlight while Irish Police used to be discreet about them.

For the Irish Times, convincing the United States to actively target the Kinahan gang was always key to bringing the drug cartel down as some of its money is allegedly laundered there. The KOCG became infamous as it has been involved in a gang fight against the Hutch organization in Ireland causing numerous deaths since 2016, including two innocent bystanders.

The companies targeted are a U.K.-based company run by one of their associates and his wife that produces the Scottish Nero Vodka, a sports management company and a consulting company in boxing both based in the U.A.E.

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