You know you have truly reached pariah status when even the United Arab Emirates turns its back on you. And, on Thursday, that is what happened to members of the Kinahan family when the Arab state froze the assets of the family’s drug trafficking cartel.
The asset freeze included personal and corporate bank accounts and came a week after the US Treasury imposed sanctions on the Kinahan group and seven of its members including its leaders, Christopher Kinahan and his two sons, Daniel and Christopher Jr, who are based in Dubai.
Sandwiched in between the move by the US and UAE was the announcement that MTK Global, a boxing agency co-founded by Daniel Kinahan in 2012, was shutting down following the imposition of US sanctions on the Kinahans. The agency cited unfair scrutiny and the fact that leading promoters had severed ties with it. (MTK also maintained its long-held stance that Kinahan had ceased his involvement in 2017).
Finally, after years of flaunting their illicit wealth in plain sight, the net is closing on members of the notorious cartel. The move by the US authorities, who also put up $5 million for information in relation to the family, has been a turning point, forcing other governments into action – and coercing the boxing community to finally do the right thing.
But it begs a larger question: just why did it take so long?
Most articles about Daniel Kinahan carry the standard line that he had no criminal convictions and that he has always denied any wrongdoing. And this was enough to convince hundreds of boxers such as Tyson Fury to continue working with him and for promoters such as Bob Arum to pay him millions of dollars. Yet, there is a bigger truth, and that truth has been known for years.
Back in 2019, the Criminal Assets Bureau took a successful case against Dubliners Liam Byrne, Sean McGovern and nine others. During the case, the High Court heard Garda evidence that Kinahan was a leader of the Kinahan organised crime gang, and that the organisation smuggled guns and drugs and had associations that facilitate criminal activity in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America. The evidence was accepted by the High Court.
The EU’s security services have described Christy Kinahan as the chief executive of Kinahan Crime Inc, a global business, international property and criminal organisation valued at upwards of €1 billion.
In his piece, Inside Kinahan Crime Inc, Barry Cummins wrote extensively about how the family used the proceeds of drugs and arms deals to expand into business and international property, and about evidence gleaned by authorities across Europe.
“Assessing wealth in the absence of any real financial statements is always tricky, but an early indication of the Kinahan organisation wealth emerged in 2010 when it was targeted by a coalition of European police forces under the codename Operation Shovel. The Spanish police secured freezing orders on property worth up to €750 million in dozens of countries across Europe and South America.
“According to the Spanish, Christy Kinahan had invested €500 million in holiday resorts in Brazil alone and €160 million in Spanish property. His own villa in Marbella was valued at €6 million.”
Nonetheless, the boxing community continued to sidle up to Kinahan and MTK, either ignorant or indifferent to how they had amassed such funds.
Kinahan acted as an adviser to Tyson Fury, helping him to broker fights potentially worth hundreds of millions. Fury and Kinahan were photographed together in Dubai in February. He said last week that the sanctions were “none of my business”.
Mauricio Sulaiman, the WBC President, recently met him in Dubai, prompting him to release a statement last week saying he has no relationship with Kinahan. Kinahan himself happily admitted he was involved in brokering “multiple record-breaking and exciting world titles”.
Up until the US-imposed sanctions, Daniel Kinahan was near the summit of world boxing. And, despite so much evidence, world boxing did not seem to care.
Tom has looked into the structures of MTK, including the control MTK exerts over its fighters, its cut of what they earn, and where it is based.
Even its address tells its own story. Despite handing tens of millions of euro for fighters, and claiming to be the “biggest force in world boxing”, it had as its registered address a letterbox in the Al Barsha Post Office in Dubai. Contracts also compel fighters to “thank everyone at team MTK Global,” in “all post-fight interviews” and also plug any other sponsors they might be asked to, while fighters had to pay MTK any money they owe within 15 working days.
It is worth noting that many of its fighters are Irish. Yet, the silence from Irish boxing was deafening.
The move by the US, however, has changed everything. (The $5 million bounty could make things even worse for the family. Will their network remain silent with such a large sum of money on the table for information?) The Kinahans are on the ropes.
As Francesca reported when the sanctions were imposed, Kinahan bosses were accused of preying and profiting from the addicted while living lavish lifestyles in Dubai, while the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said it was a matter for sporting leaders to take the right steps for the probity of their own business, for their own fans and the reputation of their own sport.
Daniel Kinahan sought to use boxing to rehabilitate his reputation and legitimize himself as a businessman. By allowing him to do so, the sport of boxing disgraced itself.
Elsewhere last week…
Elsewhere last week, Ronan explained why a new strand to the housing crisis is coming, and it relates to demographics. He examined the surge in the elderly population and the problems that will come with housing them appropriately in the decades ahead. “Official Ireland has a habit of underestimating population growth. That has come back to haunt us, because we are badly unprepared for coming demographic changes. Policymakers need to act now,” he wrote.
Stephen, meanwhile, wrote that we want the state to look after younger and older citizens, and incomes taxed sufficiently to cope with climate, biodiversity, and asset-based crises. However, he said that without cheap money or a willingness to tax land, it’ll be tough to deliver on those goals.
From administrators to nationalisation, the state is looking at a range of plans to salvage 450 jobs at Limerick’s Aughinish Alumina plant, should further sanctions be imposed on Russia. An analysis of the plant’s finances over a six-year period revealed just what is at stake.
Tyrrelstown broke the mould for high density developments in Celtic Tiger Dublin. But an unusual sales arrangement fell afoul of a Revenue assessment. Nearly two decades on after multiple appeals, the Vat bill looks set to stick. Francesca had the story.
2021 was a record-breaking year for the Irish film and television industry and it is set to heat up even more with hundreds of millions of euro being invested in new studio space. In a major industry feature, Rosanna asked how can the indigenous industry thrive in a changing world?
In a related story, the Workplace Relations Commission is being kept busy with 39 complaints by members of a film industry trade union, who argue that they were blackballed for advocating for continuous employment. The claims are heavily contested.