The Irish Times view on the Kinahan crime gang: the United States makes its move

US sanctions against the Irish criminal group will make it hard for its leaders to operate

When armed men opened fire at the Regency Hotel in north Dublin in February 2016, killing one person and announcing a major escalation in the feud between the Kinahan and Hutch crime gangs, the Garda Síochána was caught flat-footed. At least 18 subsequent killings were linked to the feud. But that brazen attack in a crowded, public place would come to mark a turning-point in the authorities' battle to defeat Ireland's largest criminal groups.

The largest of them, controlled by Christy Kinahan and his son Daniel Kinahan, whom the gardaí believed had assumed operational leadership, was to be heavily degraded. Kinahan gunmen, money men, foot soldiers and middle managers were jailed for periods up to and including life. Gardaí raided arms depots, seized drug shipments and froze the gang's assets. Daniel Kinahan was based in Spain, but co-operation between the Garda and Spanish police made his life intolerable there, forcing him to set up a new base in Dubai. It was a frustrating pattern: the authorities could chip away successfully at the Kinahans' criminal enterprise, but their global reach and vast resources meant key figures at the group's apex seemed untouchable. Through his high-profile involvement in boxing promotion, Daniel Kinahan seemed to be taunting his pursuers.

Families and communities have been devastated by the cycle of addiction and violence that drug gangs produce and then feed off for profit

The key to bringing down the Kinahan gang was always likely to be convincing the United States, where some of the group's drug money was alleged to be laundered, to make it a priority. Now that has happened, and in spectacular fashion. By imposing sanctions on seven of the group's leaders and three companies linked to them, US authorities have deployed a financial bazooka against the group's global operations. Its US assets will be frozen and it will in effect be shut out from the financial system, making it impossible for it to use the dollar and to wash its cash through legitimate enterprises.

Even more important is the signal the measures send to those who would deal with the Kinahans. Banks, professional services firms, sports bodies, other businesses and even states will baulk at dealing with an outfit formally designated by Washington as being a threat to “the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States”. Everywhere the Kinahans try to do business, red flags will appear. They will find it harder to travel, to communicate and ultimately, the authorities hope, to evade justice.

Across Ireland, families and communities have been devastated by the cycle of addiction and violence that drug gangs produce and then feed off for profit. The measures announced by the US will not end that ongoing crisis. Nor will they, in themselves, shut down the Kinahans' operation. But as a signal of intent, a message that impunity cannot apply, they mark an important milestone.

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