The leadership of the Kinahan cartel could be brought to justice either in the United States or in a European country, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said.
He said the focus of the international crackdown on the organised crime group (OCG) is on gathering evidence and Ireland will support efforts to prosecute its leaders in another jurisdiction if that is where a trial ends up taking place.
Rewards of $5 million (€4.7 million) have been offered by US authorities to anyone who can supply information leading to the arrests and convictions of Christy Kinahan snr and his sons Daniel and Christopher jnr, who lead a €1 billion criminal empire. Pressure has also been applied through US sanctions imposed on those at the top of the cartel.
Mr Harris said a "second wave" of sanctions is under consideration against other individuals and entities associated with the gang.
The absence of an extradition arrangement between Ireland and the United Arab Emirates, where the Kinahans live, may mean that a prosecution ends up happening elsewhere.
Mr Harris said that without an extradition treaty that it would be “difficult” to bring the cartel leaders back to Ireland, but he added: “It’s not the same for other nations in terms of their processes on how they might wish to bring people before the courts.”
Mr Harris said that the reason the Garda has engaged with so many international partners is "to give us every chance to bring a prosecution either here in Ireland, or in Europe or indeed in the US".
Mr Harris said a huge amount of work has been done since the reward and sanctions were announced last month.
“A lot of intelligence and information has been gleaned and now we’re using that to build a case.”
Mr Harris was speaking at a press conference following the opening of a new Garda station at Dublin Airport.
He was asked if the US putting up the rewards is an indication that it is most likely that a prosecution may take place there.
Mr Harris said the action that has been taken against the cartel is a federal law enforcement process that is “tried and tested” and “has been successful in terms of other major criminals”.
He said: “Evidence is evidence and we are involved in a multinational operation against this OCG.
“It’s where then we see the best opportunity in terms of prosecution and bringing them before the courts . . . Ultimately, this is to bring people to justice for the crimes alleged against them and that’s our focus.”
A new Europol report says that Irish criminal networks are very large wholesalers of cocaine in the European Union. The same report says that the conflict between the Kinahan cartel and rivals has led to the murder of at least 20 people in Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain.
Mr Harris responded to the report, saying: “We are obviously very concerned at the prevalence of cocaine and its trafficking into Europe.”
He said Ireland works very closely with Europol, the US and Canada and the Garda has liaison officers in Bogotá and Washington DC. He said this has "made a huge difference in terms of information flow around criminal gangs, trafficking drugs".
Mr Harris also highlighted last month’s crackdown on the Kinahan cartel and said “all of these things are a priority for us”.
“We’re very concentrated on working with our international partners to deny those routes for drug trafficking, but we’re also very conscious of the impact of cocaine and other drugs locally.
“We have dedicated drugs teams and every division to deal with local dealers and pretty major dealers as well at a local level.”