Daniel Kinahan’s wedding at the seven-star Burj al Arab in Dubai was a focal point for investigators who gathered evidence of a super-weed underworld and secret text messages decrypted six months after the nuptials.
The party in May 2017, attended by Kinahan’s friends and associates, as well as underworld figures, occurred as Dutch police began investigating the allegations of a witness called Nabil B who linked underworld mafiosi Ridouan Taghi, Ricardo Riquelme Vega, aka El Rico, Caged Assassin Noufal Fassih and Italian Camorra boss Raffaele Imperiale – all of whom attended the festivities.
Six months later, PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) messages discovered on a server in Canada provided tangible evidence that sealed the alliance of the “super cartel” suspected of having moved nearly 30 billion euros of cocaine in Europe and which is now used in the trial of the century in the Netherlands.
In a Crime World podcast, NRC journalist Jan Meeus from Amsterdam explains how the marriage could have been seen as mere proof that the players, including Kinahan, knew each other.
But with the phone hack and Nabil B’s claims, he became an important piece of the puzzle of an incredible underworld boom period that turned individual gangs into a narco force like no other.
The Marengo trial, currently underway in a courtroom known as The Bunker, is the largest ever conducted in the Netherlands and centers on Taghi, arrested in Dubai in December 2019, and 16 of his associates all charged with six gang murders.
In a separate trial, El Rico, the Chilean, was recently convicted of leading a murder and money laundering ring. While he was sentenced to 11 years in prison, Meeus explains that further charges could follow if Chilean and Dutch authorities can agree on extensions to the original extradition document which saw the criminal arrested in Santiago then that the major investigation was continuing.
Under Dutch law, and at the time of his extradition, murder charges could not be laid, but that could change over time, he says.
In recent weeks, reports from the Netherlands have indicated that Nabil B, who was once part of the Taghi mob, has stopped speaking and is at odds with authorities over his safety.
He has already lost a brother and his former lawyer Derk Wiersum, both of whom were murdered in the run-up to trial in an attempt to derail the court process. He complained that his girlfriend does not have sufficient security as he has to testify at the Marengo trial.
However, according to Meeus, this may not be critical to the case, as the PGP messages accepted as evidence of convicted El Rico are also used in Marengo, and will likely be sufficient to seal the fate of the so-called Mocro Mafia.
âThe investigation really started to run when Nabil B went to a police station in early 2017,â he explains. “He said his life was in danger and he wanted to talk to the police about the underworld murders.
The story behind it was that he was involved in organizing a few of them and in one case the wrong person was killed. It looks like they made a mistake while filming, which seems to happen a lot here in the Netherlands in recent years.
âThe problem was that the person who was mistakenly killed was a member of a known Dutch Moroccan criminal family in and around Utrecht.
“Nabil B knew him personally and also knew his family. He was involved in the organization of the killing by selling a car to the shooters who they were going to use for the escape.
âThe family wanted to talk to him and find out who was behind him. They wanted to know who ordered the murder and he found himself in a difficult situation.
âFinally, he analyzed that he was dead or that he had spoken. So he decided to speak. This is the start of what we now call ‘Marengo’.
âHe made his statements between January and May 2017. Police later captured a huge amount of information on the PGP devices after the discovery of two servers, one in Canada and the other in Costa Rica. Dutch did it. In this huge amount of posts, there was a lot of evidence to support Nabil B’s claims and strong evidence against Taghi and his crew. “
On the run, Taghi had attended Kinahan’s wedding and it was later heard when lawyers traveled to Dubai to meet with him, undercover police watched Daniel Kinahan arrive at the hotel reception instead.
The manhunt for Taghi did not begin until early 2018 – six months after the wedding and after officers began to understand how Taghi, Fassih and El Rico had come together as a national force in the Netherlands and as a global force with Kinahan and Imperiale, as well as a Bosnian outfit known as the Tito and Dino cartel.
Imperiale had long been an associate of El Rico and they had worked together in the past. In 2016, Italian police found two stolen Van Gogh paintings on the kitchen wall of a house in the town of Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples, owned by Imperiale. They were sent back to a museum.
âThe police realized that this was a multi-layered criminal organization. The Dutch trio had teamed up in the world of cocaine smuggling and also in the underworld murders.
They all had their own businesses and their own drug lines, but they worked together. So they had their own organization and together they are considered a Dutch national criminal organization.
“On top of that, they were working as an even bigger organization with Kinahan and others.”
A total of 3.6 million messages were entered on the Ennetcom server in Canada, which provided evidence of the relationship between the key figures.
âYou have a situation where they’re at the wedding. They’re seen together, but what does that mean other than they know each other?
“But then they see the messages being exchanged between them and the investigators can really hear how and about what they are communicating. A much clearer picture emerged from their relationship.”
- The Marengo trial continues as Jan Meeus’ interview on Crime World is available on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud and all podcast platforms.