Tyson Fury and other senior figures in boxing have been warned to cut all ties with the Irish alleged crime boss Daniel Kinahan, whose gang was targeted with fresh sanctions and a $5m (£3.8m) bounty by the US government on Tuesday.
The WBC heavyweight champion has previously praised Kinahan, a founder of the boxing management company MTK Global, and was photographed with him just weeks ago in Dubai. But in an extraordinary press conference in Dublin, the US ambassador to Ireland, Claire Cronin, revealed that the department of the treasury is now offering a reward of $5m for information that will lead to the “financial destruction” of the Kinahan organized crime group (KOGC) or the arrest and conviction of its leaders.
It came after the US Treasury imposed sanctions on Kinahan and another six of the group’s alleged ringleaders – including his father, Christopher Sr, and brother, Christopher Jr – banning banks and other companies from doing business with them.
Kinahan, who attempted to make a proposed all-British super-fight pitting Fury against Anthony Joshua last year and is involved with several boxers, has become one of the most influential figures in the sport. Recently he also received the “full support” of the World Boxing Council president, Mauricio Sulaiman, who praised him for “improving boxers’ lives in a special way”. However the Irish police commissioner, Drew Harris, said anyone in boxing who deals with Kinahan should be in no doubt they were involving themselves with serious criminals.
“What was implicit before, and what some individuals could choose to ignore, is absolutely explicit — if you deal with the individuals who are sanctioned as part of the Kinahan organized crime gang, you are dealing with criminals engaged in drug trafficking,” he said . “And, indeed, as we have seen here very tragically in Ireland and also in Spain, murderous feuds [and people] who will resort to vicious actions up to and including murder.”
Harris, who said the Kinahan gang was worth more than €1bn (£830m) through its criminal enterprise, was asked specifically about Daniel Kinahan’s links to sport.
“If you deal with these individuals who have been sanctioned, or these entities who are being sanctioned, you are involved in a criminal network,” he replied.
Harris also had a message for broadcasters, such as BT Sport, Sky, the BBC and TalkSport who have continued to show Fury’s fights and other boxers associated with MTK. “I’d ask them to look at their own business, at the probity of their own business and the relationship with their fans and, really, is this something they want to be involved with in terms of their legitimate business,” he said. “I think the answer to that is a resounding no.”
The Guardian has asked all four broadcasters for a response, with Sky responding. “Sky Sports is aware of recent developments including the US Treasury sanctions announcement. We always scrutinize and act responsibly in our boxing relationships,” a statement read.
Fury, the WBC champion, is defending his title against Dillian Whyte in an all-British fight in London on 23 April, a fight that will be shown on BT Sport and aired by TalkSport. The Kinahan crime gang, which emerged in Dublin in the 1990s has been called one of the world’s largest organized crime groups by the US Drug Enforcement Agency.
In a statement announcing new sanctions against the cartel overnight the US under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian E Nelson, said the gang “smuggles deadly narcotics, including cocaine, to Europe, and is a threat to the entire licit economy through its role in international money laundering”.
“Criminal groups like the KOCG prey on the most vulnerable in society and bring drug-related crime and violence, including murder, to the countries in which they operate,” he added.
Matt Horne, a deputy director of the UK’s National Crime Agency, which has previously secured convictions against two other senior members of the crime group, said the sanctions would be a significant setback. He said: “We target criminals who cause the most harm, are the most violent, those who exploit the vulnerable, and dominate communities. The Kinahan crime group falls into all of those categories.
“They have transcended international boundaries – distributing multimillion-pound shipments of drugs throughout Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe, and have been engaging in firearms trafficking and money laundering.
“They thought they were untouchable but the sanctions imposed today will be a huge blow to the Kinahans. It has cut them off from the global financial system, making them toxic to legitimate businesses and financial institutions, and will cause other criminals to think twice about doing business with them.”
The US also sanctioned three businesses identified as “Kinahan associates”, including Hoopoe Sports, based in the United Arab Emirates, which lists five boxers as clients according to its website: Paddy Barnes, Jamie Conlan, Michael Conlan, Hughie Fury, and Billy Joe Saunders. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by those fighters.
Kinahan, who is now based in Dubai and has no criminal convictions, has always denied any wrongdoing.