Kinahan cartel to get €500m stash of cars, gaffs and cash handed back by Spain after collapse of money laundering case
- 8 Oct 2020, 7:00
THE Kinahan cartel is to have up to €500million worth of frozen assets handed back by a Spanish court after the collapse of the money laundering case against it.
In what marks an almost total victory for the criminal clan, property, cars and bank accounts impounded following the 2010 Operation Shovel raids will now be released to them once more.
The Irish Sun has learned that investigating judge Antonio Romero Soriano has begun signing court orders unfreezing all the material, a process which is expected to take a number of weeks.
Though Spanish prosecutors said in 2010 that around €500m worth of assets had been seized, the figure for what is being returned is still being calculated.
However, it is understood to involve millions worth of cash in personal and company bank accounts in Spain, Cyprus, Belgium and Brazil.
There are also dozens of properties in Spain and Cyprus, as well as lands in northern Brazil which the cartel planned to develop as resorts and sell off.
Much of this Brazilian land is now worth only a fraction of its former estimated value.
There are also dozens of luxury cars, jewels and designer clothing.
These included a €180,000 Bentley used by former godfather Christy and a Chevrolet Corvette C6 and a BMW X5 belonging to his then second-in-command John Cunningham.
There were also a €181,000 yellow Lamborghini which was so expensive to run, it delivered only 14 miles to the gallon, a Toyota Land Cruiser, two Volkswagen Golf R32s and a BMW 1 Series.
It is not clear if all of the cash and land seized from the gang will actually go back to them, as it is known that they were offering laundering services to other criminals at the time of the Operation Shovel raids.
The Irish Sun revealed last June that prosecutors were set to drop all the money laundering and criminal association accusations outstanding against Christy Kinahan, his son and current cartel leader Daniel and Daniel’s brother Christopher Jr.
Last week, it was confirmed that all of these have now been formally dropped.
Similar charges against convicted gangland killer Fat Freddie Thompson and John Cunningham have also been withdrawn, along with those against a host of lower level cartel members.
Instead, Christy and associates Robert Philips and James ‘Boppo’ Naughton face accusations of passport fraud relating to two fake documents bearing Christy’s picture.
One, in the name of ‘Michael Leslie Swift’ was used by Christy to travel from Madrid to Rio de Janeiro in April 2010.
The second, in the name of ‘Thomas Richard Hassett’, was found hidden in an underground passageway leading to a housing estate in Benahavis near Marbella at 2am on June 15, 2010.
Prosecutors claim Philips and Naughton had been spotted acting suspiciously in the area by police in the moments before the discovery.
The only one facing any serious charges is ex-Kinahan gang member Ross Browning, accused of illegally possessing a Glock 19.
Jasvinder Singh Kamoo, a long-time British business associate of Christy Kinahan who formerly ran an import-export firm near Marbella, is also accused of the minor crime of using false registration plates on a Mercedes C180 car.
None of the four are expected to do time if convicted of the alleged offences and most likely will not even have to travel to Spain to attend any trial.
Sentences of more than a year are unusual for passport fraud offences, while the penalty for illegal arms possession is between one and three years.
However, terms of less than two years for first-time offenders in Spain are automatically suspended.
‘FEW MORE MONTHS WON’T BOTHER THEM’
A Spanish source close to the case said: “The return of the assets is the logical follow-on from last week’s decision, because if there are no further outstanding accusations, then the assets can no longer be frozen.
“It will take some time, because each court order has to be drawn up and signed individually.
“There has also been a change of investigating judge overseeing the case and the new one is not entirely familiar with it.
“However, the record of impounded material is being examined and the appropriate orders are being prepared and in some cases translated to be sent to banks in other countries outside Spain.
“Obviously there will be a delay before all this comes to pass, but they have waited ten years for the charges against them to be dropped so a few more months won’t bother them.”
OPPORTUNITY TO SUE
Theoretically, cartel members will now have the opportunity to sue the Spanish state for wrongful arrest, incarceration on remand and seizure of goods.
However, this is not a major concern for the authorities, despite the already humiliating end to the two-year Operation Shovel surveillance operation.
The source added: “This option is open to anyone who has been charged with something serious and remanded in custody over it.
“But they do not expect the Irish to do this.
“The Irish have taken a very businesslike approach to this from the beginning, plus they have gradually removed themselves from Spain and most of them are now in Dubai.
“Besides, the Spanish courts do not have a tradition of looking favourably upon such applications.”
One Spanish woman named Dolores Vazquez, who spent 519 days on remand for murder before being cleared, never received a cent in compensation.
Ms Vazquez, who was wrongly accused of the 1999 killing of 17-year-old Rocío Wanninkhof, was released from prison in 2003 when evil Brit expat Tony Alexander King was revealed as the real murderer.
Vazquez was initially offered €120,000 in compensation by authorities, but turned it down and took a €4m lawsuit all the way to Spain’s Supreme Court.
That court not only turned her down but also ordered that the €120,000 offer be revoked, leaving her with nothing.
The source added: “If they are going to leave that poor woman with nothing, they are unlikely to offer these people anything.
“The feeling is that the Irish want to keep their heads down, they just want this to go away.
“But they have won. There is no doubt about that.”