International drug trafficker Christy Kinahan Snr will have to return to Spain's Costa del Sol for a passport fraud trial after being indicted by Spanish prosecutors and warned he faces up to four years in prison if convicted.
The 65-year-old founder of the Kinahan organised crime group had been told he would not have to leave his Dubai bolthole and attend court personally in Malaga if prosecutors ended up seeking a jail sentence of less than two years.
The possibility of a court no-show emerged around the time it was confirmed plans to try Kinahan and his sons Daniel and Christopher for money laundering and membership of a criminal gang had been dropped.
Julio Martinez Carazo, Head of Prosecution for the Marbella area of Spain’s Costa del Sol, spoke of his “disappointment” in October 2020 after it emerged only five of the original 31 suspects arrested as part of Operation Shovel in May 2010 would face trial on lesser charges.
On Thursday it was confirmed indictments have been presented against all five men.
And instead of the two years that would spare Kinahan Snr a problematic return to Europe, state prosecutors have confirmed they are seeking a prison sentence double that ahead of his trial.
Their jail demand - two years for each of the two counts of passport fraud Kinahan Snr is charged with - is made in a five-page written indictment submitted to Estepona Court of Instruction Number Three which spent more than a decade investigating the suspects arrested as part of 'Operation Shovel'.
The convicted Dublin-born drug dealer, named as a leader of the Kinahan Organised Crime Group along with his two sons in April by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, is accused of using a false passport for a flight to Brazil.
Prosecutors allege in their indictment Kinahan Snr used a British passport in the name of Michael Leslie Swift to board flight Iberia IB6205 bound for Rio de Janeiro on April 29th, 2010.
The indictment states: “He also used the same false identity to reserve the ticket and obtain the boarding card.”
The five-page written document, which has been received by the defence lawyers of all five suspects due to stand trial, also outlines the basis for the second fraud charge again Kinahan Snr.
Local police in Benahavis near Marbella are said to have “surprised” Robert Edward Phillips and James Gregory Naughton on June 15th 2010 near to a taped-up lunch box.
Inside the lunch box an Irish passport in the name of a man who had died in Ireland on March 23rd, 2002 was found.
The indictment says: “In that passport the photograph of Christopher Kinahan Snr had been inserted after he allegedly provided his own photo for the confection of this falsified passport.”
As well as a two-year prison sentence for each offence he has been charged with, prosecutors have told the court in Estepona they are seeking fines for Kinahan Snr totalling around €6,500 and an obligation to pay a share of the court costs if convicted.
Naughton and Phillips have also been told state prosecutors want a two-year prison sentence for them if convicted.
Jasvinder Singh Kamoo, said to have played a key money laundering role by police investigators in a report highlighted by the Spanish press in their initial coverage of Operation Shovel after the arrests, faces trial for using fake number plates on a Mercedes.
Prosecutors have confirmed in their indictment made public on Thurday they are also seeking a two-year prison sentence.
A fifth man, Ross Gerard Browning, is facing trial for unlawful possession of a weapon and prosecutors who have indicted him now say they are seeking a jail term of two years and nine months.
The indictment makes it clear Christy Kinahan Snr has no previous convictions in Spain.
Under Spanish law prison sentences are normally only suspended for terms of two years or less.
Kinahan Snr spent around six months on remand in jail after his Operation Shovel arrest, which would be taken into account but would not spare him a return to prison if he gets the full four years.
It is understood no date for the trial, which would take place at a court in Malaga, has yet been set.
International arrest warrant
Well-placed insiders confirmed last night he would risk being made the subject of an International arrest warrant if he failed to show in court when the trial starts.
Kinahan Snr is now expected to try to intensify efforts through his lawyers to seek an out-of-court settlement whereby he would agree to plea guilty in return for a reduced sentence.
It was not immediately clear on Thursday if he would have to attend court should a plea bargain deal be agreed, but the fact four other men are facing trial could complicate any possibility.
A forced return to Spain for the Irishman would be expected to end in attempts to extradite him to the United States or Ireland.
US Ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin announced there was a $5 million reward for key information leading to the Kinahan gang being dismantled in April after the US government hit Christy Snr and his two sons as well as four other men it identified as key associates with sanctions.
One of the seven, British-born Irish passport holder Johnny Morrissey, was arrested at a rented Costa del Sol flat in September on suspicion of money laundering and membership of a criminal gang.
He remains on remand in prison.
The devastating US sanctions announced in April are said to have frustrated Christy Kinahan Snr’s plans to start a new life in Zimbabwe with partner Nessy Yildirim.
Recent reports said the crime godfather had aimed to take control of one of the world’s key shipping routes for cocaine from a new base in the Zimbabwean capital Harare.
Pressure has been growing on the Kinahans in recent months as they try to stay one step ahead of the law following their flight several years ago from the Costa del Sol to the United Arab Emirates in the wake of Operation Shovel and a botched assassination attempt on Daniel Kinahan.
Earlier this week six suspects described as High-Value Targets, including a British 32-year-old, were arrested in UAE city Dubai as part of an international operation against a drug ‘super cartel’ described by police and Europol as “unprecedented.”
The fallout from Operation Shovel has been dragging on for years.
Alfredo Rubalcaba, Spain’s Home Secretary when the Kinahans were held in May 2010 on the Costa del Sol as part of the high-profile operation, linked them at the time to a string of murders when he congratulated police after the raids.
In its early stages the judicial probe focused on allegations of drugs and weapons trafficking.
It emerged in 2014 a judge probing Christy Kinahan Sr and a gang of suspected accomplices including his two sons, had decided to drop her behind-closed-doors investigation into those crimes and focus solely on other allegations they were facing including money laundering and membership of a criminal gang.
In September 2020 it was confirmed the money laundering and criminal association facets of the criminal investigation had been mothballed - and only five of the original 31 detainees told they now faced trial for lesser crimes.
Details of the indictments against the five men including Kinahan Snr, recently sent to the Spanish courts, have only just been disclosed.