Daniel Kinahan's super cartel imported whopping €23 billion worth of cocaine into Europe

The clock is ticking for Daniel Kinahan in his Dubai bolthole as fellow gangsters rounded up and arrested across the globe

Daniel Kinahan

Eamon Dillon

At the height of its power the super cartel that included Daniel Kinahan's mob was estimated to have imported a staggering €23 billion worth of cocaine into Europe.

Their skills and connections elevated the gangsters to the highest levels of organised crime with the potential to undermine law enforcement agencies and even governments.

The key players were from Morocco, Italy, Bosnia, Chile and Ireland, and they all shared a common link to The Netherlands, where the connections were forged.

But since they hit their peak in 2017 - when they shared each other's company at Kinahan's lavish wedding at the seven-star Burj-Al-Arab hotel in Dubai - their fortunes have waned.

Richard ‘El Rico’ Riquelme

Kinahan is now one of only two of the mob bosses who still remain at large, but the authorities are believed to be closing in and close to shutting down the organisation.

While named in the High Court as a top-level drugs boss, Kinahan is yet to face charges for any crimes in Ireland.

He does, however, realise that could end any time soon and has trusted sidekick Sean McGovern handling the day-to-day meetings.

McGovern, who was wounded in the Regency Hotel attack in February 2016, is Kinahan's most senior lieutenant and moved to the UAE a few years ago.

Naoufal 'The Belly' Fassih

Sources say Kinahan is well aware he could be targeted for arrest in Dubai, where he rarely stays in the same place for more than one night.

Now under pressure, he has conducted a strange campaign on social media, posing for various photos to create the impression that he is a successful boxing promoter.

Despite his efforts to 'sports wash' his international reputation, there has been little to re-assure Kinahan that he can fade into the background any time soon.

If anything, the ongoing arrests in Ireland and prosecutions elsewhere have left him short of trusted operatives, while the international spotlight is firmly on the other members of the super cartel.

Daniel Kinahan with Lee McGregor (not involved in crime)

The other mob boss still at large, Edin Gacanin, is also reported to be in Dubai and runs the Balkans' Tito and Dino cartel, according to leaked documents from the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

The Tito and Dino network is being targeted by authorities in Peru from where they are believed to have exported huge quantities of cocaine to Europe.

Things began to fall part not long after Kinahan's wedding, when Ricardo 'El Rico' Riquelme Vega was the first to fall, arrested in his native Chile and extradited to The Netherlands to face trial.

In June 2021, the Chilean was jailed for 11 years for organising murders and laundering drug money.

A mobile phone seized from him included a video that featured Kinahan as well as Italian mob boss Rafaelle Imperiale, another of his wedding guests currently behind bars.

Edin Gacinan

During El Rico's trial it was explicitly alleged that Kinahan, El Rico, Imperiale, Ridouan Taghi and Nafoufal Fassih were operating in unison as a drugs cartel.

Fassih was jailed for 18 years for attempted murder in Holland after he was extradited from Dublin in 2017, where he had been arrested in a Kinahan safehouse.

Next to go was Taghi, arrested in Dubai in his luxury bolthole with photos taken shortly after his arrest showing him to be surprised and dishevelled.

Sent back to The Netherlands, Taghi is now one of 16 defendants in the Marengo trial in which they are accused of ordering six murders between 2015 and 2017.

Taghi is also suspected of ordering the murder of Amsterdam-based lawyer Derk Wiersum in September 2019, though that killing is not part of the Marengo trial.

His second-in-command, Said Razzouki, was extradited from Colombia in February, adding to the cartel's woes.

Ridouan Taghi

Then in August, Rafael Imperiale was arrested in Dubai, although it was not made public for two weeks until the Italian authorities released a statement.

Police in Dubai released a slick video of the operation to arrest Imperiale, clearly taking pride in putting the mobster behind bars.

Since January 2016, Imperiale has been wanted in Italy for international drug trafficking, according to the Italian interior ministry.

He was considered one of Italy's most dangerous and most wanted fugitives. "He was able to construct an imposing network of international drug trafficking, in particular in cocaine,'' the police said in a statement.

Imperiale started as an international broker in the drugs trade in the early 2000s, with his ties to powerful Camorra clans. He has yet to be extradited from Dubai to Italy.

Even behind bars, the super cartel is still a threat thanks to the power they gained through the huge sums of cash made from cocaine dealing at an international level.

Sean McGovern

Taghi is being held in the high-security Vught prison along with El Rico and other members of the 'Maroc Mafia.'

The Marengo trial - its name randomly assigned by computer - is ongoing with the defendants being brought to the heavily fortified De Bunker court under tight security.

Dutch authorities uncovered at least one plan to spring Taghi from the prison using a hijacked helicopter.

The military have been drafted in to beef up security at the prison such is the level of threat posed by the narco-gang.

The super cartel's network is being targeted by several agencies across the world with efforts to uncover corrupt port workers, customs officials and police officers who have been bought off.

Meanwhile, for Gacanin and Kinahan, effectively trapped in Dubai, the clock is ticking.

More Irish Crime

Latest Podcast

Latest News