Daniel Kinahan cannot be defeated by policing alone
This is a battle the State must win, no matter what that victory looks like
Freddie Thompson and Daniel Kinahan at the funeral in 2016 of David Byrne, who was shot dead in the Regency Hotel attack. Photograph: Collins
When the criminal gang led by John Gilligan shot dead journalist Veronica Guerin in 1996 the killing was described as “a challenge to the State”. The killing by the Provisional IRA of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, just weeks earlier, was “an attack on the State”.
These were huge moments for the country and in the end the State fought back and won; imperfect wins, but wins nonetheless. The Gilligan’s gang was dismantled and its leader imprisoned for two decades; though for drug dealing rather than for Guerin’s murder. Most of McCabe’s killers were caught and jailed; but for manslaughter rather than murder.
The Republic is at another crossroads over Daniel Kinahan. In High Court and Special Criminal Court rulings Kinahan, along with his brother Christopher, has been named as the head of the Kinahan criminal organisation; they inherited the leadership from their father Christy Kinahan.
Kinahan has used the wealth he accumulated from the drug trade to buy his way into the upper level of professional boxing
Daniel Kinahan, along with two other Dublin criminals, Liam Byrne and Freddy Thompson, have been named by the courts as being involved in a feud with another criminal, Gerry Hutch, which has claimed 18 lives in five years.
The week before last, Mr Justice Hunt, at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin, said the court accepted Garda evidence the Kinahan criminal network was an organised crime gang involved in “execution-type murders” in the context of feuds “to protect its core activities”.
For more than a decade Kinahan has used the wealth he accumulated from the drug trade to buy his way into the upper level of professional boxing and he has become an influential figure in the sport. He played a key role in arranging the lucrative world heavyweight title bout between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua that was announced this week.
It has also emerged in recent weeks that Kinahan, or “Dan” as Fury calls him, had brokered a partnership between boxing promotion companies MTK Global and KHK Sports; the latter owned by Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, a member of the Bahraini royal family. Kinahan is a “special adviser” to KHK Sports and has also worked “advising” MTK Global.
That deal will bring pay-per-view professional boxing, including some of the most lucrative sports events to date, to the Middle East. The new partners will also hold a summit of many of the biggest promoters in world boxing in Bahrain in September, where Kinahan and the others will plan the future of the sport.
Clearly we are not in “challenge to the State” or “attack on the State” territory with Kinahan. Those ships have sailed. Instead Daniel Kinahan has beaten the State. He has done it by becoming arguably the biggest figure in Irish criminal history; mostly off the backs (and veins and noses) of people in Ireland and avoiding criminal convictions along the way.
The Garda has succeeded in tackling elements of the Kinahan crime network in Ireland and helping their British and Spanish counterparts do the same. Tens of millions in cash and drugs has been seized over the past 10 to 15 years. An arsenal of weapons has been confiscated and scores of gang members and foot soldiers have been jailed for serious crimes, up to and including murder.
But Kinahan has been domiciled abroad for about 20 years, in Spain and more recently Dubai. None of his assets are in Ireland. It means he is out of the reach of the Criminal Assets Bureau, which has successfully targeted individuals involved in criminal activities who have otherwise evaded prosecution.
His overseas domicile and the size of his criminal organisation means he now has very little direct involvement in the drug trade in Ireland. He has now made the crossover to professional boxing. He’s not about to do it; it’s already done. And there’s hundreds of millions to be made, this time legitimately.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris talks about the constant pursuit of organised crime groups and “degrading” the strength of the gangs. That activity will continue in the Republic with the Kinahan organisation but Kinahan himself has now grown so big he cannot be brought down by policing alone.
The pressure must be kept on the British government and its sporting authorities through diplomatic efforts to ensure the relevant parties know exactly who Kinahan his
Ireland must launch a process of “degrading” Kinahan’s standing in the international community. The Government has said it has contacted the authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) about Kinahan, though they have not been helpful to the Garda to date. Bahrain is also shaping up as a safe harbour, if not a business partner. It is unlikely that UAE or Bahrain, or the sport of boxing itself, will ever do anything but embrace Kinahan and his money.
But the pressure must be kept on the British government and its sporting authorities through diplomatic efforts to ensure the relevant parties know exactly who Kinahan is, what his role in major fights is and where his boxing seed money came from. Through diplomatic efforts by the Irish State it must, for example, become unthinkable that Kinahan could travel to the United States for involvement in any major fight there.
Kinahan is now looking to put in place deals that involve broadcasters such as Sky and BT Sports in Britain and ESPN in the US. They too must be briefed unambiguously about Kinahan and moral pressure placed on them by the Government. This is a battle the State must win, no matter what that victory looks like.
Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor