Friday, February 5, 2016, is the day “the head of the snake” is to be chopped off: Daniel Kinahan (38), successor to “perhaps the biggest drug cartel in Europe”, the Irish Costa Cartel. During the weigh-in on the day before a boxing gala in Dublin, a hit team appears.STEUN RO
Three fake policemen with Kalashnikovs provide cover for two other gunmen, one of them dressed as a woman. It is “she” who fires several bullets from close range into the head of one of their targets. But at the decisive moment, the real target, Kinahan, is just out of sight. He quickly escapes, along with a security guard, through a window.
The Kinahan family have traditionally close ties with Dutch criminals. Crimereporter Hendrik Jan Korterink went to the cradle of the Costa Cartel in Malaga, Spain. He heard that the attack in Dublin is one in a series that began with a failed attack on Daniel Kinahan in 2014. At that time, nobody understood what was going on. Part of the veil can now be lifted: it appears that a car used in that attack belonged to the infamous Dutch criminal Mink Kok, a close friend of the Kinahans.
‘Daddy! Help Me!” And later: “Daddy! What’s going on?” The Irish boy will never forget the day he went with his father to the weigh-in of boxer Jamie Kavanagh. Instead of getting an autograph from his idol, he hears gunshots and sees blind panic as several hundred people try to save their lives by running away.
Blue boxing shorts
Bullets fly around, blood splashes against the bar in the lounge of the upscale Residence Hotel in Dublin. Boxer Jamie, dressed only in a blue boxing shorts, reflexively ducked for cover. He was unharmed. David Byrne (32), considered as one of the top executives of the Costa Cartel, is less lucky. He is killed by the bullets from the gun of a man disguised as a woman. Witnesses would later tell that they thought they had seen a transvestite; the blonde wig, make-up and the dress could not conceal the fact that here was a male. That became clear immediately after the first shot, when the “woman” screamed to an accomplice: “He’s not fucking here, I can not find him!” The accomplice replied: ‘Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
The man they could not find was Daniel Kinahan. He was there, but apparently there was something wrong in their coordination and the one who was to shoot Daniel at that crucial moment lost him from sight. The panic was immense. Even after the six-man death squad left, it took an astonishing twenty minutes before the police arrived on the spot.
Three days later, the Dublin cops arrived a lot more quickly when Eddie Hutch was liquidated at his home. Without doubt it was an act of revenge for the attack in the Regency Hotel.
Both attacks have to do with a feud between two Irish crime families from Dublin. On one side, the Hutch family, whose godfather Gerry is nicknamed the Monk. On the other side, the Kinahan family, whose chief Christy Kinahan (59), Daniel’s father, is nicknamed “Dapper Don”. For decades they coexisted in peace, if you can say so in Ireland. The Hutches remained in Dublin, while the Kinahans settled on the Costa del Sol, in the vicinity of Marbella.
That something was brewing, appeared in 2014, when an extraordinary gun attack was committed on the boxing trainer and TV commentator Jamie Moore outside the home of Daniel Kinahan. According to spuirces close to the Kinahans, the family is convinced that the attack was meant for Daniel – and was committed by the same triggerman who later dressed as the blonde woman at the Residence Hotel. If that is true, history repeats itself in a bizarre way. In 2014 only the innocent Jamie Moore was hit; in February 2016, the real target again was missed.
It is a family saga in the tradition of Wuthering Heights, headed by colourful patriarchs. Gerry Hutch was suspected in connection with the two biggest bank robberies in Irish history, in 1987 and 1995, worth several million euros, but was never convicted of that. Against many other accusations he reacts as if stung by a wasp; he is goodness itself. That was why investigative journalist Veronica Guerin from the Sunday Independent gave him the nickname “The Monk”. The same Veronica Guerin is a pain in the ass to Hutch and all other Irish criminals. In January 1995, a day after she published an article about The Monk, a man appeared at her door and pointed a gun at her head. She dove to the floor but was hit in the leg.
In September 1995 she was seriously threatened by a notorious criminal, John Gilligan. While driving home from Dublin to her house on June 26 1996, she was murdered on the road.
This led to the creation of the CAB, the Criminal Assets Bureau, a special unit with extensive powers to confiscate criminally derived property and assets. Other Irish gangsters were furious at Gilligan, who was suspected of the murder of Guerin and the consequences thereof. It led to a criminal exodus, with Irish criminals seeking refuge in Amsterdam, Spain and Morocco. The Hutches remained in Dublin. The CAB is seen as a kind of monument to Veronica Guerin. One aspect remains a closely guarded secret: that Veronica Guerin had a love affair with John Cunningham.
If we are to believe the Irish newspapers – and why shouldn’t we? – Gerry Hutch as bank robber made some 40 million euro. He once made a settlement with the CAB for 1 million euro. He says that today he earns his money from real estate and legal businesses. He does not lack a sense of humor: one of his companies rented luxury limousines and was called CAB – Carry Any Body – with the same initials as the dreaded seizure unit.
Christy Kinahan, meanhwile, became is the reputed head of perhaps the biggest European drug and arms cartel. Police calculated that he alone should have earned around one billion euros in drug trafficking from South America and elsewhere in a period of fifteen years.
Compared with him, the most infamous Dutch maffiaboss Klaas Bruinsma and his crew were just a bunch of lousy chicken thieves. What they do have in common: both are from a good families, intelligent, civilized. One of the Kinahans of Dublin is a widely respected trade union man.
Christy started in the late seventies as a burglar, car thief and fence. He was imprisoned several times: in Belgium, France, Netherlands and in Ireland in the high security prison in Portlaoise. Instead of making clothes pegs, he used the time in prison to study. Thus he speaks three foreign languages: French, Spanish and Dutch. In France he also took a university degree in sociology.
In 1986 he was arrested in Dublin for a consignment of heroin, which earned him a prison sentence of six years. He told the court that he was addicted to heroin and was planning to improve his life. From this time date his close contacts with the men with whom he would later work.
His last sentence dates from 2001. About his private life, little is reported other than that he is divorced and the father of three children, of whom Daniel is the oldest. He is averse to publicity and remains as much as he can under the radar. He dwells in a totally unapproachable villa in the hills above Marbella, worth an estimated six million euros. Curious visitors are quickly discouraged. Everywhere expensive cameras keep an eye on any uninvited person and intruders are strictly banned.
May 2010 saw the culminatin of a massive law enforcement operation against the Kinahan Cartel, called Operation Shovel. After two years of preparation, 750 officers targeted numerous locations in different countries. In the early morning, doors were smashed in and sleeping gangsters were dragged from their homes, including the Dapper Don and his sons, arrested on suspicion of cocaine and arms trafficking and money laundering. In total 32 people are arrested.
One name to remember is John ‘The Colonel’ Cunningham, who is considered the right hand of Kinihan senior. In 1986, Cunningham abducted banker’s wife Jennifer Guinness of the famous beer family.
He was later sentenced to seventeen years in prison. In 1996, with only one year to go, he escaped from the Irish prison and he settled under a false name in a small town in the Netherlands, at a luxurious property with heated indoor pool. Reportedly, he became good friends with the wife of Jan Boellaard, one of the men who kidnapped the Dutch beer tycoon Freddy Heineken in 1983.
Interstingly, while Cunningham abducted a descendant of a beer family, Kinahan senior has a few traits in common with our Heineken kidnapper Cor van Hout (murdered in 2003): both loved gambling and horse racing and towering risky bets. Kinahan is also suspected of ‘fixing’ horse races. Cunningham is also the criminal who is said to have had a relation with Veronica Guerin.
However, the large-scale Operation Shovel has so far ended in anti-climax: none of the Kinahans or the supporting targets has been convicted. Only one man ‘from Dublin’ was arrested: Gary Hutch, a friend and associate of the Kinahans. And so we come to the basis of the current feud.
In February 2014, in the English city of Cheshire, the police seize a Volkswagen van with hashish and cocaine hidden among frozen food packages. The presumption is that the precious cargo belongs to the Kinahans and that it was stolen by someone. But who? Over time, the Kinahans begin to suspect that Gary Hutch maybe has anything to do with it.
That’s hard to believe.
Gary is a cousin of Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch, but he is rarely in Ireland. He commutes between Amsterdam and Marbella. He is very good friends with Daniel Kinahan and an important part of the Costa Cartel. The two are often together. Both live in extremely secure luxury homes, Gary in a penthouse worth half a million near Puerto Banus, with 24-hour security and a swimming pool surrounded by ancient trees. When in Marbella he is often in the company of Daniel. Sometimes they stay weeks under one roof in one of their apartments.
At the start of 2014 there was still no indication of friction between the Hutch and Kinahan families, but behind the scenes it was brewing.
Life on the Spanish Costa
Patrick, brother of Gary, also seems very attracted to the life on the Spanish Costa under the mighty wings of the Kinahans, much to the dismay of his family. The omnipotence of the Kinahans has been a pain in the ass of plenty of other British crime groups for a number of years. Kinahan senior has gradually withdrawn from the business, leaving son Daniel as his somewhat ruthless heir. Is this the time to get rid of the Kinahan clan?
Irish newspapers, relying on confidential sources in the police, write that the Hutch family, together with a Scottish criminal group, want to make a grab for power on the Costa.
There is one obstacle: Gary Hutch, fully integrated into the Kinahan family. He faces a dilemma: be loyal to his own family, or to Daniel and his family. The incident with the drugs in the Volkswagen van is the first sign that something is not right, but at the time Gary gets the benefit of the doubt.
On August 6, 2014 comes the extraordinary attack on Jamie Moore, trainer for boxer Matthew Macklin at the MGM Gym in Marbella, near the home of Daniel Kinahan.
Daniel, as a promoter of boxing, is closely linked to MGM and he and Moore have known each other for a few months. That night, Jamie went to visit Daniel. As he left Daniel’s house, someone with a gun was waiting and shot him in the leg. Jamie lated told an Irish newspaper: “I thought it was a joke, it happened so fast, I said, “Ouch! Get out!” And walked on. Then I turned around and I said, “Hey, this is not funny!” Then he popped into my hip. I fell to the ground.”
No criminal record
It is clear this attack was not really meant for Jamie Moore, who has no criminal record. Was it a warning, a sign? The Kinahans have no idea where to look for culprit, but help arrives from an unexpected source. The police managed to trace the car of the shooter and inform the family – unofficially – to avoid vengeance against the innocent. The message from the police is: do not look too far away.
In fact they needed to look much closer than they could have imagined. The car used by the gunman was an armored one that has been linked to the major Dutch criminal Mink Kok, a close friend of the Kinahans. After Mink’s departure to Lebanon – where he stayed much longer than estimated, because he was arrested there for a drug deal and was only released in early 2016 – the car had remained in the group. Only someone from that group had access to that car, though it seems incredibly stupid for them to have used this in the attack.
Time passed. Eventually the Kinahans concluded that Gary Hutch was playing a dual role. A test followed, clearly showing that Gary had chosen the side of his own family. He denies it, of course, and thought that they believed him, especially when they told him he was safe and could return to Marbella. It turns out to be a trap: he wounds up dead in the a pool of a luxury hotel in Marbella in September 2015. People who knew him well say that in the last months of his life he was acting strangely. The betrayal of his friend and his family must have hit him hard.
The Kinahans indicated that they would like to work out a truce. The wave of publicity that the liquidations entails are bad for the market and for their reputation; there can only be misery to come.
The answer they received left nothing to the imagination: the extermination attack on February 5 in the Regency Hotel. It largely failed. Daniel returned on Friday unharmed back to Spain, while his “soldiers” held an emergency meeting on Sunday in a pub in London. On the basis of statements from people who witnessed the attack up close, they came to the conclusion that Eddie Hutch (59), elder brother of Gerry ‘The Monk’, was involved in the execution of the attack. It was said that he collected the used weapons and disposed of them. Less than 24 hours later, cabdriver Eddie was dead. As he readied to leave his home in Dublin to go to the pub, hitmen were waiting for him. ‘This is for David,’ one of the four shooters called.
The Irish newspapers wrote that Eddie was not involved in the feud between his family and the Kinahans, but other sources think differently.
Who is next? The Kinahans know the identity of ‘the blonde woman.’ If there is a hit list, he is at the top. The question is: who will find him first, the police or the avenging angel? The funeral of David Byrne, on Monday, February 15th, resembled a military operation. Police and army kept a close watch on anyone with possible plans for revenge, their partners and even former partners. Daniel and his brother were flown in from Portugal. At the airport in Dublin, they were, much to their displeasure, met by a horde of journalists. After the ceremony they went hastily back to Spain.
In the book Georganiseerde Misdaad in de Lage Landen by the Belgian journalist Joris van der Aa, a link is mentioned between Christy Kinahan and the murder of Boudewijn Kerbusch.
In 2008 in Antwerp there was a case a money laundering involving the professional indoor soccer team FT Forcom Antwerp. In this context the name of Kinahan was mentioned. On October 29, 2004, fishmonger Boudewijn Kerbusch (58) from Oss was killed. In February 2005, the Dutch police receive a report from the Irish Gardaí that Kerbusch was possibly involved in the smuggling of hashish to Ireland and was held responsible for the loss of a load of 680 kilograms a few months before his death. It was in a truck of Bouker Seafood BV, the company of Kerbusch. The report says: “The truck came to Ireland with no load. Kerbusch then flew to Ireland to wait for his driver. Then the driver on behalf of Kerbusch had to pick up a lot of frozen fish intended for the Dutch market.”
That was the official route. In reality Kerbusch let his ignorant drivers transfer batches of hashish. In the six months before his death, he had traveled to Ireland seventeen times. According to the Dutch police, the Dutch branch of this organization is headed by John (“Jopie”) A. The Irish know Jopie as a business partner of Christy Kinahan and his right hand man, John Cunningham.
The investigation into the liquidation of Boudewijn Kerbusch is closed. Kinahan and his gang were never interviewed about it.