The Hunt is on, and the Net, is Closing in, just a Matter of time.

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Dubai cops reveal they smashed Kinahan-linked ‘super cartel’ with advanced technology

The operation led to the arrests of 49 drug kingpins and members of a prolific transnational criminal network

Dozens of drug kingpins were taken down
Dozens of drug kingpins were taken down
Raffaele during his arrest
Raffaele during his arrest
Officers engaged in Operation Desert Light
Officers engaged in Operation Desert Light
Daniel Kinahan and (inset) Raffaele Imperiale
Daniel Kinahan and (inset) Raffaele Imperiale

Today at 08:54

Police in Dubai have revealed how they took down key members of the co-called ‘super cartel’ of which the Kinahan crime gang played a huge role.

Over the last two years, the Gulf police force arrested 597 of the most wanted international fugitives from 101 countries.

They participated alongside six European countries in Operation Desert Light which focussed on dozens of “high-value targets” and “drug lords” who controlled around one-third of the cocaine trade in Europe.

The operation led to the arrests of 49 drug kingpins and members of a prolific transnational criminal network involved in large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering crimes.

Speaking this week, one Dubai official said that advanced surveillance technologies played a big role in arresting some of the world’s most world-wanted criminals.

Daniel Kinahan and (inset) Raffaele Imperiale
Daniel Kinahan and (inset) Raffaele Imperiale

“Over the past two years, we have exchanged 9,012 security tips with member states of Interpol through the National Office of the Ministry of Interior and carried out successful joint international operations that dismantled transnational criminal syndicates,” he said.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, a top official from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) said that the police had seized and restored Dh517,981,823 (€134 million) from international criminals involved in financial crimes in their countries.

Details of the operation were announced on Tuesday by Lieutenant General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police during the second Dubai World Police Summit (DWPS) at the World Trade Centre.

Speaking about the Dubai Police and its role in international cooperation, he said these criminals are involved in various crimes including money laundering, drug trafficking and promotion, and leading organised crime syndicates.

“As part of its commitment towards assisting friendly nations and international organisations, the UAE, represented by the Ministry of Interior and Dubai Police, has arrested 597 international fugitives from more than 101 countries between 2020 and 2022.

“These individuals faced charges related to various crimes, such as money laundering and drug trafficking. UAE authorities have also cracked down on 85 organised criminal syndicates involved in crimes like forgery, theft, and embezzlement.”

Lt Gen Al Marri added that the force has also repatriated 85 wanted fugitives who were wanted abroad.

One of those arrested in Dubai as Part of Operation Desert Light was Ryan James Hale who was identified as ‘Robo’ by police in the intercepted messages.

The 32-year-old is suspected member of the Kinahan Cartel who had set up a group chat with six other suspected drug traffickers to organise five separate shipments of cocaine from South America through Panama and to the port at Barcelona.

Raffaele during his arrest
Raffaele during his arrest

A 698-kilo shipment seized in routine search at Valencia in 2020 led to the break-up of the operation and to dozens of arrests in Spain and Dubai.

As well as Desert Light Operation in 2022, some of the most prominent joint operations include the Ghost Operation, in 2021, Millstream in 2020 and Los Blancos in 2020.

In 2021, Dubai Police captured Moufide ‘Mouf’ Bouchibi, a French drug lord involved in drug trafficking and smuggling operations across Europe with an estimated annual street value of 70 million euros.

Bouchibi who was known as ‘The Ghost’ had been travelling under a false identity and been on the run for 10 years using forged documents when Dubai Police arrested him and extradited him to France.

That same year, Dubai Police also nabbed one of Italy’s most wanted criminals, Raffaele Imperiale, an alleged kingpin of the organised crime syndicate ‘Camorra’, which is involved in drug and weapons trafficking crimes across international borders.

Dozens of drug kingpins were taken down
Dozens of drug kingpins were taken down

Imperiale who is currently in an Italian prison after being extradited from Dubai is regarded as a key figure in Europe’s super-cartel.

The flash 48-year-old Italian attended Daniel Kinahan’s wedding in 2017 at the luxury Burj al Arab in Dubai and was known as a playboy when he lived in Dubai, prior to his arrest in August 2021.

Imperiale is believed to be a key figure in international drug trafficking and is thought to have a close relationship with the Camorra mafia centred around Naples.

The drug lord had been hiding out in the desert after fleeing Italian cops who wanted to serve him an 8-year sentence for drug trafficking.

For years, Imperiale ran drug lines between the Netherlands and Italy, distributing shipments of 100 to 150 kilos at a time.

According to Italian officials, he did business with the eldest son of Ridouan Taghi, another alleged member of the super-cartel who is awaiting trial in the Netherlands.

Taghi, a Moroccan-Dutch national who also attended the Kinahan wedding, was Holland’s most wanted man prior to being nabbed in Dubai.

He is currently on trial for murder alongside sixteen co-defendants in the so-called Marengo Trial in Amsterdam.

In addition to Ridouan Taghi and Kinahan, Imperiale also had ties to Richard “El Rico” Riquelme Vega, a Chilean drug boss, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). El Rico is currently serving an 11-year sentence in Holland.

Investigations by the American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) established that Taghi was another prominent guest at Kinahan’s wedding in Dubai in July 2017 while he was on the run from police in his own country.

Dubai cops also took down Imperial’s right-hand man Raffaele Mauriello, who is responsible for plotting and executing murders and assassinations using unlicensed firearms.

The force also brought to justice Michael Paul Moogan, one UK’s most wanted criminals, who had been on the run for eight years, for his alleged role in a large-scale international drug trafficking plot in the country.

In 2020, they arrested Denis Matoshi, a leader of the Albanian-speaking (Kompania Bello) criminal group in an international operation code-named ‘Los Blancos’ that involved the anti-drug departments of 10 countries.

A total of 30 wanted gang leaders were rounded up in a series of synchronised raids.

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