Recent sanctions imposed by the United States on the Kinahan Clan, arguably Ireland’s most powerful organized crime group, have brought to the fore this group’s role in cocaine trafficking between South America, the United States, Europe and beyond.
On April 11, the US Treasury Department designated Irish national Daniel Kinahan and six of his associates for smuggling cocaine from South America to Europe as part of the powerful drug trafficking syndicate known as the “Kinahan Clan,” among other things.
“Daniel Kinahan, who sources large quantities of cocaine from South America, plays an integral part in organizing the supply of drugs in Ireland, and is attempting to facilitate the importation of cocaine into the United Kingdom,” according to a Treasury Department press release.
The same day, an interview was published by Irish media in which Colombia’s Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez expressed concern over the mounting presence of European drug traffickers in her country, including the Kinahan group.
Ireland and Colombia have significantly tightened their collaboration on criminal issues in recent months, especially after revelations came to light about Kinahan’s involvement in the Latin American drug trade.
In March, Irish leader Leo Varadkar signed a new security agreement with Colombia to fight drug trafficking, while last December, the Irish government approved a police request to begin a formal information exchange with Colombian law enforcement. Ireland has also had a senior detective deployed to Bogotá for well over a year, investigating the Kinahan Clan’s presence in Colombia.
In December 2021, InSight Crime first reported on Daniel Kinahan’s suspected involvement in a string of cocaine seizures in Ireland. Revelations about the Kinahan presence in Colombia came to light shortly after Colombia arrested one of its most-wanted men, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias “Otoniel,” the head of the Urabeños drug trafficking group.
Allegations surfaced of a so-called “Super Cartel,” made up of drug traffickers in Colombia, Ireland, Chile, Bosnia, Morocco, the Netherlands, and Italy, including the Kinahan Clan, Urabeños, infamous Dutch mobster Ridouan Taghi and the Camorra mafia, according to media reports from around the world. However, it is very difficult to ascertain to what extent such relationships were organized or existed beyond specific drug deals.
InSight Crime Analysis
Daniel Kinahan’s sanctioning contains several key lessons for European cocaine traffickers and brokers in Latin America.
Firstly, close alliances may not always work out. Some criminal partnerships, such as that between Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta and Brazil’s First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), have stood the test of time.
The alleged Super Cartel, on the other hand, has not. This rumored international alliance, the real extent of which is open for speculation, may have been a successful example of “crowdsourcing” the drug trade, with different actors across Europe and Latin America pooling their money in order to achieve cheaper wholesale prices and reduce each buyer’s individual exposure.
However, this risks one arrest starting a domino effect. The arrests of Kinahan’s Dutch-Moroccan partner in 2016 and Dutch-Chilean partner in 2017 provided European law enforcement with new evidence and impetus to locate, detain and extradite the Irish gangster.
Secondly, sending brokers to Latin America is fraught with risk, as Kinahan learned. In 2017, a suspected Kinahan associate was murdered and dumped in a ravine near Medellín. This hit was reportedly carried out by the Oficina, formerly known as the Oficina de Envigado, in retaliation for a seized drug load.
Thirdly, know how to diversify supply. In 2017, Irish media reported over half of Kinahan’s cocaine stream may have been cut off when his associate, alias “El Rico,” was arrested in Chile, forcing him to rely more heavily on an alternate source in “northern Colombia” – likely a reference to the Urabeños. However, he was soon procuring significant quantities of cocaine from Peru as well, where prosecutors are targeting his collaborators.