Dubai Unlocked: How Kinahan cartel’s Dubai properties were secretly sold off after crime gang hit by US sanctions (2024)

Emirates Hills, the hyper-exclusive gated collection of mansions in the middle of Dubai, has had some noteworthy residents over the years.

Former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, ex-president of South Africa Jacob Zuma and the family of the late Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe have all called the area home at one stage.

More recently, Andrew Tate, the controversial internet influencer who is facing trial in Romania on rape and human trafficking allegations he denies, lived in a mansion in the development where properties can easily go for more than €50 million.

Dubai Unlocked: How Kinahan cartel’s Dubai properties were secretly sold off after crime gang hit by US sanctions (1)

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In 2022, the community of property owners was joined, on paper at least, by members of the Kinahans, the Irish crime family behind one of the biggest narcotics gangs in Europe.

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Christopher Kinahan, and his sons Daniel and Christopher jnr have been hiding out in Dubai for almost a decade, having permanently moved there during the Hutch-Kinahan feud that resulted in the murders of 18 people, mostly on the Hutch side, since 2015.

Shortly after arriving – as Daniel was trying to establish himself as a legitimate figure in the world of professional boxing – they publicly started buying up property in Dubai.

In 2022, the 2,238 sq m Emirates Hills mansion, complete with indoor and outdoor pools, parking for six cars and an internal lift, came under the control of Kinahan’s wife, Caoimhe Martina Robinson, leaked records show.

The 42-year-old, from Darndale in Dublin, married Kinahan in a lavish Dubai ceremony in 2017. The wedding doubled as a summit for Europe’s leading narco-criminals. Robinson, whose was previously in a relationship with murdered gangland figure Michael “Panda” Kelly, is not herself suspected of involvement in organised crime.

The vast Emirates Hills property was purchased for €6.05 million – €2 million more than the asking price two years previously. It is not known if any of the Kinahans or their associates ever lived in the mansion, but records show it was never officially put on the rental market.

Dubai Unlocked: How Kinahan cartel’s Dubai properties were secretly sold off after crime gang hit by US sanctions (5)

They could easily afford to have left it vacant if they wished; by some estimates the Kinahan cartel has amassed more than €1 billion in wealth.

As of 2024, the mansion is under new ownership. In the last two years, the Kinahans have been divesting themselves of much of their Dubai property empire, a sign of increasing pressure on the cartel from Irish, United States and United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities. Their companies have been shuttered, their assets have been frozen and authorities in Ireland believe they may soon be able to extradite Daniel back to Ireland to face serious organised crime charges relating to the Hutch-Kinahan feud.

Sweeping US sanctions, announced with some public fanfare in April 2022, target the senior leadership of the Kinahan gang and anyone conducting business with them.

In addition, US authorities have offered a reward of $15 million (€13.9 million) for information leading to the conviction of three senior leaders.

The public attention from the sanctions has made it far more difficult, but by no means impossible, for the gang to run their narcotic and weapons smuggling business from Dubai.

With the sanctions starting to bite, members of the family and their associates have been forced to sell millions of euro worth of property, records show.

[Kinahans sell off Dubai property empire as sanctions bite]

[Christy Kinahan: A timeline of the international drug trafficker and gang leader’s life]

But they still have some reason to be cheerful; the sale of their properties has netted them a healthy profit, some of which has been reinvested into the property market.

As valuable as they are, the Dubai properties invested in by the Kinahans represent only a tiny fraction of their global property empire. Operation Shovel, an investigation by Spanish, Irish and UK police, estimated that at one point that the Kinahans controlled more than €700 million worth of property worldwide.

These new revelations about the Dubai property ownership are the result of a six-month investigation by a consortium of 74 media organisations, including The Irish Times, located across 58 countries.

During the investigation, which was co-ordinated by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Norwegian outlet E24, reporters uncovered dozens of convicted criminals, fugitives, corrupt politicians and sanctioned individuals who have owned real estate in Dubai.

The data was obtained by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), a non-profit organisation based in Washington DC that researches international crime and conflict.

The leaked data provides a detailed overview of hundreds of thousands of properties in Dubai and information about their ownership and usage, largely from 2020-2022.

An analysis of millions of leaked property records – combined with other data sets and interviews with key figures – paints a picture of a city which offers refuge to gangsters, fraudsters and tax dodgers trying to avoid public attention.

From Australian cocaine traffickers to a coterie of sanctioned Hizbullah financiers, the findings reveal how the city has opened its arms to unscrupulous characters from around the globe.

There is a reason criminals choose to live in the UAE and specifically in the opulent surroundings of Dubai. Officials there tend to ask few questions about property purchases and the UAE has no standing extradition treaties with many western countries, including Ireland and the US. Behind the scenes, Irish officials and senior gardaí have been trying to change that.

Analysis shows the Kinahan property empire has been in a state of flux since the announcement of US sanctions.

A case in point is Daniel Kinahan’s office on the upper floors of the 55-storey X3 Tower in the Jumeirah Lake area. From 2017, this office served as the centre of the 46-year-old’s Dubai business operations.

Dubai Unlocked: How Kinahan cartel’s Dubai properties were secretly sold off after crime gang hit by US sanctions (6)

Records show Kinahan bought the property in 2017 for €191,500, a bargain compared to the previous selling price of €262,700 in 2011.

The 114sq m office was the base for Ducashew General Trading LLC which, according to the US treasury, is “owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, Daniel Kinahan”.

It was also the Dubai base for MTK Sport Management, the company set up by Daniel to help launder his reputation for the boxing world.

Like the rest of the Kinahans’ public business holdings, both companies are no more. Ducashew has been shuttered by the UAE authorities and its trading licence is listed as “terminated” on official business records.

MTK, which claimed it cut ties with Kinahan in 2017, announced its closure shortly after the imposition of US sanctions in 2022 (MTK was not itself sanctioned).

Records show the office now lies vacant and that Kinahan has been trying to sell it since late last year. However, the sale has been blocked by the authorities as the property is subject to legal proceedings. In addition, Kinahan owes €15,622 in service fees, a sum which will have to be cleared before any sale can take place.

An eight-minute drive away from X3 Tower is Elite Residences, where a 300sq m apartment was purchased in the name of Kinahan’s wife in 2017. The price was €893,588, almost €1 million less than the 2012 selling price.

At the start of 2024, the lavish four-bed apartment, was on the market again. It sold in February for €1.02 million, netting the couple €126,412 profit.

Far more profitable for the Kinahans was the sale of an expansive villa in the Parkway Vistas development in 2022, just three months after the US treasury department announced sanctions targeting the cartel.

Parkway Vistas is a “luxurious residential community with a plethora of modern facilities”, according to an online blurb for the development. It is surrounded by golf courses, jogging tracks and man-made lakes where prospective buyers with access to at least €3 million can enjoy “calm days and vibrant evenings”.

The Kinahans’ six-bed, 1,201sq m property was purchased in Robinson’s name in November 2018 for €4.3 million. Records suggest none of the family lived there during the five years she owned it.

Dubai Unlocked: How Kinahan cartel’s Dubai properties were secretly sold off after crime gang hit by US sanctions (7)

In 2022, just a month after the sale of the Elite Residences apartment, the Kinahans sold the Parkway Vistas villa for €5.2 million, a profit of just under €900,000.

The big pay-day came a year later, when the Emirates Hills mansion linked to Robinson sold for a staggering €11.7 million, almost double the price it was purchased for in 2020.

One remaining residential property still listed in the name of the Kinahan family is a comparatively modest one-bed apartment spanning 110sq m in the Al Mesk Tower in the Dubai Marina development.

The apartment was purchased in Robinson’s name in 2018 for €431,000, almost €200,000 less than the price it previously sold for in 2014.

Strangely, this was not the first time a Kinahan associate was involved with the property. Records show Ian Dixon, a senior Kinahan cartel member, rented the apartment from an Iranian businessman for €3,062 a month before it was purchased in Robinson’s name.

Dixon, a childhood friend of Daniel Kinahan, was sanctioned by the US authorities, along with the rest of the cartel leadership, in April 2022. His company Hoopoe Sports, which has since been shuttered by the UAE authorities, was also sanctioned.

According to the address listed by the international sanctions section of US treasury department, as of 2022 Dixon lived in a villa in Arabian Ranches, an upscale development constructed in the desert just outside central Dubai.

However, the records reviewed by The Irish Times indicate this address was already out of date by the time sanctions were announced. In 2018, after moving out of the Al Mesk apartment, Dixon started renting the Arabian Ranches villa from a Canadian national who had purchased the 570sq m property for €1.2 million earlier that year. The rent was almost €4,000 a month, later reduced to €3,500.

By mid-2021, Dixon moved on to an unknown location, records show. Gardaí in Ireland believe that with the increase in pressure on the gang, its members have made a habit of moving around regularly, making them harder to find if extradition warrants are eventually issued.

[Could Daniel Kinahan face trial in Ireland any time soon?]

Despite offloading several valuable residences, the Kinahan family has not entirely turned its back on the property market. In 2023, Robinson purchased a sprawling but unfinished villa in the Wadi Al Safa 5 neighbourhood of Dubai for almost €2.2 million, including fees.

According to a court judgment issued in March of this year, she then got a “surprise” when the property was seized and put up for public auction. Legal records show the skeletal building was the subject of a dispute between various parties who claimed to be its owner. As a result, the 1,910sq m villa was seized and scheduled for sale at public auction, but only after it was purchased by Robinson who was seemingly unaware of any dispute.

Robinson sued in the Dubai courts and came out on top. The court ruled Robinson was the rightful owner and that she should receive €50,500 in damages.

Where do Daniel Kinahan and his family actually live? There are no records of him owning any residential properties in his own name in Dubai.

Dubai Unlocked: How Kinahan cartel’s Dubai properties were secretly sold off after crime gang hit by US sanctions (8)

In 2022, the US authorities listed Daniel as living on the Palm Jumeirah, the famous man-made island shaped like a palm tree which is directly overlooked by the Elite Residence Tower. Indeed, he has been spotted there in recent years playing football under the eye of his team of bodyguards.

Records show that until recently Daniel lived on the Palm in the home of a Russian businessman who works for an international shipping company. The owner lives in another part of the UAE and officially, the mansion has no current tenants. When The Irish Times visited the property in March, locals insisted a Russian family lived there.

The other Kinahan son, Christopher jnr, who runs the day-to-day operations of the gang alongside Daniel, was listed by the US authorities as living in the 33-storey Iris Blue tower in the Dubai Marina area as of 2022.

However, this information is also out of date. Records show Christopher did indeed live there between 2018-2019 when he rented a 127sq ft apartment from an Italian businessman for just under €3,000 a month. By 2020, he had moved out, with a Turkish and then a Russian tenant moving in.

There is also no data suggesting the current whereabouts of the cartel’s patriarch, Christopher snr. Authorities say he lives in central Dubai but officially, he does not own or rent any property there, at least not in his own name.

However, he is also under pressure. Records show the company he established in 2020, Christopher Vincent Commercial Brokerage, is now also defunct.

Dubai Unlocked: How Kinahan cartel’s Dubai properties were secretly sold off after crime gang hit by US sanctions (9)

As well as making money buying and selling property, members of the Kinahan family have also earned a sizeable income as landlords. Records show the Parkway Vistas villa was rented out to a Venezuelan national between 2020-2022 for €8,780 a month before the property was sold.

Daniel Kinahan charged another cartel-linked company, Ducashew Consultancy, almost €14,000 a year for the use of his Jumeirah Bay Tower office. Like its sister company, Ducashew General Trading, the business has also ceased trading. Business records show its licence to operate has been “cancelled”.

There are other signs the net is closing on the Kinahans. Irish officials are deep in negotiations with their UAE counterparts about formalising an extradition treaty which would likely pave the way for Daniel Kinahan to be returned to Ireland to face trial for his alleged involvement in the 2016 murder of Eddie Hutch.

In an interview with The Irish Times in March, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said Daniel Kinahan’s attempts to legitimise himself as a major figure in professional boxing lay in tatters. Speaking during a visit to Dubai to meet his policing counterparts, Mr Harris noted that Kinahan’s selfies with celebrities, which frequently appeared on social media, are a thing of the past.

Mr Harris said the authorities in Dubai were proving receptive to Irish efforts aimed at bringing the cartel leadership to justice and that, while they may attempt to relocate, they have very few viable options.

“Commissioner [Drew] Harris has met senior officers from the Dubai Police in-person on several occasions as part of the transnational operation against the Kinahan organised crime gang that involves law enforcement agencies from US, UK, and Europe,” a Garda spokesman said.

An Garda Síochána does not comment on named individuals who have not been named as been subject to sanction and/or arrest warrants as part of this transnational operation.”

Dubai Unlocked: How Kinahan cartel’s Dubai properties were secretly sold off after crime gang hit by US sanctions (10)

Authorities in Dubai, eager to clean up the city’s image, have also been keen to stress it is not a safe-haven for narco criminals.

When asked about the country’s record on extraditions, Saud Abdulaziz Almutawa, the head of Dubai Police’s financial crime centre, pointed to several recent arrests of international criminals living in Dubai. However, he said extradition requests must pass through local courts, meaning they take longer and often face challenges from deep-pocketed defence teams.

“We are increasing our capacity, increasing and developing our resources ... to meet the expectations of our foreign counterparts,” he said in an interview with Dubai Unlocked investigation partner Swedish Television.

In response to a list of queries from Dubai Unlocked, the UAE embassy in Oslo, Norway, said it worked closely with other countries to pursue global criminals.

“The UAE is committed to continuing these efforts and actions more than ever today and over the longer term,” a spokesperson told E24.

[The Kinahan files: Leaked documents expose workings of global empire]

Meanwhile, there are some who wonder if the current sanctions targeting the Kinahans should be extended to their spouses or other family members, to ensure they are not able to hide their wealth.

“Any opportunity for organised criminals to launder criminal property should be challenged,” Roy McComb, the former deputy director of the UK’s National Crime Agency, said.

“Using a spouse as a cut-out for property ownership, suspected of being criminal property, is a clear attempt to evade sanctions and money laundering investigations.”

Dubai Unlocked: How Kinahan cartel’s Dubai properties were secretly sold off after crime gang hit by US sanctions (2024)
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