Gardaí investigating Kinahan cartel ‘encouraged’ by UAE-Europol deal

New arrangement sees UAE officers working with European police agency to better share intelligence

Gardaí investigating the Kinahan cartel are hopeful a new agreement that will see police officers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) working with Europol will help bring the Kinahans and those around them to justice.

The move, which one Garda source said was “encouraging”, comes at a time when a key Kinahan associate, John Morrissey (62), is being held on money laundering charges in Spain after his arrest there two weeks ago.

Another man in the Kinahan inner circle, Sean McGovern (36), is also central to talks between the UAE and Irish authorities aimed at the gardaí securing his extradition back to Dublin. He is wanted on a Kinahan-Hutch feud murder charge and for allegedly directing organised crime.

Under the new deal agreed with the Emirati authorities and Europol, law enforcement officers from the UAE will be based in Europol’s headquarters in The Hague in the Netherlands in a bid to better share intelligence and bolster the international investigation of transnational crime.


Europol’s executive director, Catherine De Bolle, said the new “liaison officer agreement” meant the European Union and UAE were “together sending a clear signal to criminals”.

“The United Arab Emirates is a key security partner in the fight against the most pressing criminal threats of today, both in the Gulf region and internationally. I welcome this agreement which will mark a new level of co-operation in international policing by connecting Emirati law enforcement with their counterparts in all of Europe’s member states and partner countries,” she said.

Senior gardaí have long been concerned at what is seen as a lethargic response by UAE law enforcement as the Irish, British and Spanish authorities were investigating the leadership of the cartel based in Dubai.

However, in April, when US law enforcement announced financial and travel sanctions against the Kinahans – Christy Kinahan and his sons Daniel and Christopher jnr – and four of their associates, the UAE followed up with the same sanctions weeks later.

The new agreement between the UAE and Europol, which was signed last week, comes fewer than three months after a Garda liaison officer was appointed in Dubai.

While each of the developments are regarded as incremental, rather than very significant, they signal a change in approach by the Emirati authorities, who have declined to put in place formal extradition procedures with the EU.

While the Kinahans grew their drugs wholesale business and money laundering network from southern Spain for about 15 years, they relocated to Dubai about seven years ago. At the time their feud with the Dublin-based Hutch faction intensified and they were under intense investigation by Spanish, Irish and British law enforcement. Moving to Dubai was also seen as placing the cartel’s leadership beyond the reach of European law enforcement.

Gardaí are now hopeful one of the Kinahan associates, Dubliner McGovern (36), may be extradited from UAE under a special once-off arrangement mirroring that of the extradition of mafia figure Raffaele Imperiale last year.

The UAE agreed to extradite him back to serve a prison sentence in Italy after a request from the Italians, even though the Emirati authorities have no extradition agreement with the EU or its member states.

Last week, the Spanish authorities made the first arrest of the seven men at the apex of the Kinahan cartel since all seven were sanctioned by the Americans in April. Morrisey was running a global money laundering network for the cartel and documents have been seized from his palatial Spanish villa, though he was living elsewhere.

International law enforcement believe those documents provide a road map to much of the cartel’s financial network, including people and businesses they are linked to.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times