Chief prosecutor forced to drop plans to put Kinahan cartel on trial in Spain reveals ‘disappointment’ over case
- Gerard Couzens
- 13 Oct 2020, 18:20
- Updated: 13 Oct 2020, 22:12
THE chief prosecutor forced to drop plans to put Christy Kinahan and his sons on trial for money laundering, has spoken of his “disappointment” over the case.
Julio Martinez Carazo, Head of Prosecution for the Marbella area of Spain’s Costa del Sol, predicted in March 2016 the crime godfather and alleged cartel leaders and members would see the inside of a courtroom “in a few months” after some “loose ends” were tied up.
A fortnight ago it emerged none of the original 31 suspects arrested in high-profile police raids in May 2010 would be tried for money laundering or criminal association.
‘I FEEL DISAPPOINTMENT’
And it was confirmed at the same time the Dapper Don, 63, was the only Kinahan facing charges after the long-running probe when an investigating judge ruled there was enough evidence to put him in the dock for passport fraud.
In his first comments since the shock news, Mr Carazo admitted: “I feel disappointed by the length of time the response to a matter of this kind has taken.
“An investigation of this type has to be scrupulous and meticulous but the fact that we’ve taken ten years to get to where we are now is not justice for me.”
Spanish prosecutors sought information from four other countries including the UK and Ireland as part of their attempts to build a watertight case against the Kinahan gang.
The investigation that led to the May 2010 Operation Shovel arrests in at least three countries, including those of Christy and his sons Daniel and Christopher, began in 2008 as drugs and firearms probe before being widened to include money laundering in 2009.
Ireland, Brazil and Cyprus responded saying they had not found any evidence of money laundering, weakening the probe in Spain further after no drugs or firearms were found in the May 2010 raids and follow-up work failed to produce any results.
UNANSWERED INFORMATION REQUESTS
Prosecutors asked an investigating judge to drop the drugs and weapons part of the criminal court probe in July 2014, the same year Ireland and Brazil answered their rogatory commissions, some four years after the formal requests for information were first sent from Spain.
It can now be revealed that astonishingly, Spanish prosecutors are yet to receive information from the relevant UK authorities they first requested via a rogatory commission nearly 11 years ago in December 2009.
The failure to get answers from the UK resulted in the investigating judge’s recent decision to wind up his money laundering probe against the Operation Shovel suspects and lift the threat of trial and prison hanging over most of them.
Well-placed legal sources said Costa del Sol prosecutors had sought information linked to arrests in Britain after the seizure of firearms in an operation there called Operation Zoo.
They wanted to see if they could relate any of the people under investigation in the UK for weapons trafficking with the Kinahan cartel.
But instead of receiving the statements they requested, they were met with years of frustration as it emerged UK officials wanted to avoid any risk of double jeopardy that prevents people from being tried twice on the same charges.
‘WE’LL NEVER KNOW’
The formal requests were reiterated four times over seven years from May 2011 but never yielded the documents the Spanish wanted.
Prosecutors ended up having to abandon plans to put the Operation Shovel suspects on trial for money laundering after a failed last attempt to get information from Britain, sent in May 2018, stressing the Spanish probe was no longer a weapons trafficking investigation.
Mr Carazo said: “When I spoke about loose ends being tied up in 2016 that’s because I was still hopeful of a positive UK response, since the fact we weren’t investigating the same type of crime removed any double jeopardy risk.
“The rogatory commission sent to the UK was the most important one for me.
“I can’t say for sure there would have been a money laundering trial if our request had been properly answered but the simple fact is we never got that information and so we’ll never know.
“The disappointment I feel is due to the lack of a definitive result despite the prolonged investigation we’ve carried out in Spain and the lack of agility in the communication between the competent Spanish and UK authorities.
“The co-operation between Spain and the UK in these matters is normally much more fluid.”
The work that has gone into the Operation Shovel case has been described as “enormous” by those involved in the probe.
The case files run to around 32,000 pages.
The document prosecutors submitted requesting the mothballing of the investigation into crimes of money laundering and criminal association runs to 57 pages and took “four months” to draft according to Mr Carazo.
He insisted: “I can confidently say I believe we’ve done everything in our power as state prosecutors.”
Responding to recent claims that the Kinahans had two Spanish police on their payroll and deliberately left documents they knew detectives would find in their raids which would “tie them up for years and amount to nothing”.
He added: “The operation began as a drugs trafficking operation and when the raids were carried out in May 2010 no drugs were found in any of the 30-plus properties and premises searched which was unusual.
“But I haven’t seen any court evidence pointing to any suspicions of police tipsters.”
Ten years after the Operation Shovel arrests, the Kinahans have relocated to Dubai.