Drew Harris meets Dubai police over Kinahan cartel investigation

Cartel founder Christy Kinahan snr and his sons have used Dubai as their headquarters for the past decade

Speaking to The Irish Times last month, in his first newspaper interview since becoming commissioner, Drew Harris confirmed the Garda inquiry into the cartel’s leadership had been completed

The Kinahan family’s continued ability to run their international cartel from Dubai, and their possible extradition to Ireland, were the main topics for discussion as Garda Commissioner Drew Harris met senior officers from Dubai police and justice officials during a visit to the emirate over the past 48 hours.

While senior Garda officers and the Government have been frustrated over a period of years at the muted response by the authorities in Dubai to the presence of the Kinahans in their jurisdiction, the trip by Mr Harris and Assistant Commissioner Justin Kelly is seen as a step forward.

Security sources in Dublin told The Irish Times the willingness of the senior officers from the Dubai police to meet Mr Harris and Mr Kelly, and to acknowledge that meeting publicly, was “very significant in itself”. The same sources said Garda Headquarters was very heartened at how the official visit had gone and what may arise from it in the months and years ahead.

“It’s definitely significant that they would meet the commissioner,” said one source, who added that senior police officers and officials in Dubai were very selective about which western law enforcement figures they agreed to meet.


Another source said the fact that the Garda Commissioner had led the Irish delegation conveyed the seriousness with which the Irish approached the visit, and the matter of the Kinahans, and they believed that had been reciprocated by their Dubai counterparts.

The visit was arranged by officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Irish diplomatic personnel in the Middle East and was many months in the planning. It follows a series of covert briefings about the Kinahans the Garda has given to the Dubai police since early last year.

Those briefings began just before the US authorities, at a press conference in Dublin in April 2022, imposed financial and travel sanctions on three Kinahans and four of their close associates and offered rewards of up to $5 million for information leading to their conviction.

An initial briefing was given to the Dubai authorities, who had prior warning that Irish, US and British law enforcement was planning the joint press event in Dublin which may lead to negative coverage for the UAE authorities. A series of briefings has continued since then, with Irish security sources saying the Dubai authorities had always been “very aware of exactly who the Kinahans are”.

A Garda inquiry into the cartel’s leadership has been concluded and the file sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, with a direction awaited about charges. However, neither the Republic nor the European Union has any extradition arrangements with the UAE. That means if charges were approved in the Republic against any of the Kinahans, the Irish and UAE authorities would need to reach agreement on a once-off basis facilitating their extradition to the Republic to face trial.

And now Garda officers are very hopeful the Dubai authorities would be more likely to agree to an extradition given they agree to meet Mr Harris and Mr Kelly, who is the head of the Garda’s organised and serious crime section.

On Tuesday Garda Headquarters said Mr Harris and Mr Kelly were attending “a series of meetings” in Dubai “as part of ongoing co-operation between An Garda Síochána and international policing partners to tackle transnational organised crime”. It added Mr Harris had regularly met “international law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle” transnational crime gangs, including travelling to the US, Colombia and other parts of Europe since he became commissioner five years ago.

“In addition, [Garda] Commissioner [Drew] Harris in conjunction with departments of justice and foreign affairs has expanded An Garda Síochána’s network of international liaison offices with new offices already established in the US, South America and, most recently, in the Middle East, with a further office to be established shortly in Thailand.”

Will the Kinahans ever face justice in Ireland?

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Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times