Irish gangland ‘spooked’ by scale of US focus on Kinahan cartel

Drugs supply line came under pressure as gangs laid low for fear of surveillance, Garda sources say

A period of “shock” within the Dublin underworld, which resulted in the flow of drugs on the streets being interrupted, occurred in the weeks after US law enforcement announced it was targeting and sanctioning the Kinahan cartel leadership.

Senior Garda sources said the sheer scale of the announcement by the Americans meant many of Ireland’s biggest drugs gangs, most of which are in Dublin, were “spooked” and immediately scaled back their activities. This appeared to take the form of gangs suspending moving around large consignments of drugs and cash, which impacted the supply of medium- and small-scale dealers.

The same sources said that while there was no “drought” in drugs in Dublin, the supply line came under pressure and the availability of some drugs was affected. However, evidence has now begun to emerge that after the initial shock at the scale of the US operation, the larger-scale movement of cash and drugs was resuming again.

“It appeared that when the US sanctions were announced it had an impact across the board,” said one Garda source about the drugs trade, adding some of the gangs appeared concerned at the level of surveillance now being applied. “For a period they weren’t moving larger consignments of drugs and cash around and we did put that down to the impact of the announcement of the US sanctions.”


Other sources said the manner in which American law enforcement had so publicly announced their intentions to target the Kinahan cartel “caught these guys very much by surprise”.

“You have a large flow of drugs coming for that one source, [the Kinahan] cartel, so a lot of crime groups in Ireland are linked into that supply line,” he said. “And the Americans are basically saying they are now prioritising that supply line.

“That would be big news in any country and it’s hugely significant for Ireland because we’re a small country. That kind of attention, that the Americans can apply, being focused on such a big source for drugs in this country is going to spook a lot of people.”

The sources said that the seizure of drugs and cash linked to the drugs trade continued, even in the days after the US authorities announced the sanctions they were imposing on the Kinahans and offered rewards of up to $5 million (€4.8 million) for information on them. However, while some seizures of drugs and cash continued to be made, there was a noted decrease in moving around large consignments and the supply of drugs was interrupted.

Since then, however, evidence has emerged of an increase in large-scale deliveries and transactions with much larger quantities of both cash and drugs being seized more often.

Seven of the cartel’s key figures — six of whom are based in Dubai — and three companies linked to them have so far been placed on a US Department of the Treasury sanctions list. It means they are effectively locked out of the US banking system and cannot trade with people or companies in the US.

Any money they have in American financial institutions will be frozen and any further business activity they try to conduct in the US must be reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. More companies or cartel members may soon be added to the sanctions list.

The US authorities have also offered a reward of up to $5 million to any person who can supply information that would significantly disrupt the cartel or lead to any of the three Kinahans — Christy Kinahan snr and his sons Daniel and Christopher jnr — being convicted. Some 600 people linked to the cartel leadership are also banned from entering the US.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times