The arrest of Kinahan cartel figure Liam Byrne in Mallorca at the weekend was very significant in that it confirmed the Dubliner must now answer the first gangland charges he has ever faced. However, Garda sources said the manner of his arrest also proves the authorities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates – where Byrne has been living – were still refusing to extradite Kinahan cartel suspects.
A number of Garda sources were concerned that, despite serious firearms charges awaiting Byrne in Britain, he could live an openly lavish lifestyle in Dubai, where the authorities had clearly not moved to extradite him back to the UK to stand trial. It was not until Byrne effectively left the safe haven of Dubai for a family holiday in Mallorca that the British authorities could arrange for his capture.
Garda sources pointed out that when US law enforcement in 2021 sanctioned the leadership of the Kinahan cartel – including Christy Kinahan snr and his two sons Daniel and Christopher jnr – and offered rewards of up to $5 million for their arrest and conviction, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) soon also sanctioned the men.
The same Garda sources also noted the UAE last year said some of its police officers would work with Europol in a bid to better co-operate with European law enforcement pursuing serious criminals living in UAE.
“When that happened the media was all over it, saying the UAE were getting serious about clamping down on the Kinahans and people like them,” said one source of the UAE reaching agreement with Europol. “But now you have the proof of the pudding: Byrne charged in England and the British can’t get (the UAE) to extradite him, they’re still depending on the Spanish and on (Byrne) leaving Dubai.”
Other sources said aside from the continued refusal of the UAE authorities to extradite criminals to Ireland, other EU member states or Britain, they were also uncooperative during investigations. They explained the type of assistance available to the Garda from the Spanish authorities, for example, was a “world away” from the “stonewalling” of law enforcement in UAE when assistance or information was sought from them.
And while media reports have linked the Kinahans to other parts of the world of late, including Iran, gardaí believe Dubai was set to remain crucial to the cartel’s operations for the foreseeable future.
Despite Byrne being a leading member of a gang that was involved in the Crumlin-Drimnagh gangland feud and, much later, the Kinahan-Hutch feud, as well as running the Kinahans’ Irish drugs business for years, he has never been charged with any crimes related to those activities.
As a much younger man he spent time in prison but that was for a robbery when he was aged 17 years and for beating a man with a baseball bat in an attack related to a personal dispute. Byrne has never been charged with any crimes related to the drugs trade or gangland crime. However, his arrest in Mallorca at the weekend changed all that.
He was detained on Sunday evening while having a meal with family members in Alcúdia. The National Crime Agency (NCA) in Britain issued a statement confirming it had asked the Spanish authorities to find and arrest Byrne as he holidayed on the Spanish island, having flown in from Dubai on May 26th.
The NCA also confirmed it had investigated Byrne, when he lived in Britain, for his alleged leading role in a crime group sourcing firearms for other gangs. And the agency confirmed it had secured permission some time ago to charge Byrne – and fellow Irishman James Kavanagh (22), usually based in the UK but living in Dubai of late – for their alleged role in the gun-running gang.
Byrne has been a significant figure in Irish organised crime for about two decades. And though the Kinahan’s Irish operation, which Byrne ran, has been wiped out by a major Garda clampdown – more than 60 Kinahan cartel members and associates jailed since 2016 – Liam Byrne has remained at large. Any move that denies him his liberty – even by British law enforcement – is regarded as a good day by gardaí who have investigated him down the years.