A sports company owned by a Bahrani prince has cut ties with Irish drugs smuggler Daniel Kinahan, the latest in a series of blows to the Dubliner's attempts to whitewash his reputation on the international stage.
KHK Sports asked the Bahrani government to make the announcement on Tuesday in a statement specifically sent to media outlets which had previously reported critically on the Dublin-born crime boss.
The company is owned by Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, a son of the king of Bahrain and one of the most senior figures in the country's sports industry. KHK announced the hiring of Kinahan as a special adviser just over a month ago with the aim of attracting high-profile boxing and MMA fights to the Middle Eastern nation.
Citing its “integrity and deep-rooted principles in the sports industry”, KHK said on Monday it “has discontinued engagement with Daniel Kinahan and he is no longer an adviser to KHK Sports”.
The move comes against a backdrop of increasing diplomatic pressure by the Irish Government on the nearby United Arab Emirates (UAE) where Kinahan is resident. Irish officials have written to their UAE counterparts informing them of the view of the Irish courts that Kinahan controls a vast drugs empire which is involved in murder and weapons smuggling.
The Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the issue on Tuesday but a senior source suggested the increased international interest in Kinahan’s criminal connections likely played a bigger role in KHK’s decision than Irish diplomatic efforts.
Ireland does not have an embassy in Bahrain but has several important economic connections to the country, most notably the presence of a campus of the Royal College of Surgeons there.
Fine Gael TD Neal Richmond, who was one of the first politicians to raise concerns about Kinahan last week, said the “international outcry” over Kinahan’s role in the Fury-Joshua fight “almost certainly” impacted KHK’s decision.
There has been renewed scrutiny of Kinahan's criminal activities since heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury announced last week the Dublin man had been instrumental in brokering Fury's forthcoming fight with Anthony Joshua, one of the most anticipated and lucrative bouts in modern boxing history.
The news was met with shock and anger by several Irish politicians including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. It will also be raised in the British parliament. Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry told The Irish Times he was raising the issue with the UK's secretary of state for culture, media and sport "with a view to how the government can work with UK-based broadcasters around their approach to coverage and what can be done to ensure proper international governance around professional boxing".
The UK is one of several countries, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, being touted as a possible location for the Fury-Joshua fight.
Mr Farry said “great care must be taken to ensure that professional boxing is not used to legitimise such a person, and indeed that such a person could compromise professional boxing”.
Sky Sports is one of the most likely carriers to broadcast the fight. However, sources said there was increasing unease within the company about the fight’s connections to Kinahan, particularly as the issue is now being raised in the international media, rather than simply within Ireland. In recent days CNN and the New York Times have carried critical stories about Kinahan’s role in boxing.