Zim’s denial of Irish drug cartel adds to its record of fighting international crime

Chris Mahove  (Additional Reporting by ICIJ)

Zimbabwe once again proved to the world that it does not abet or condone international crime after it denied Irish international drug lord, Christopher Kinahan, permanent residency in the country.

Kinahan, who was involved in an daring attempt to buy a fleet of Egyptian military transport planes, had sought to establish a home and a business hub in Zimbabwe but was stopped in his tracks by Zimbabwean authorities who turned down his application for permanent residency in the country.

The drug lord intended to make the country his safe haven as he pushed to establish new bases close to drug-trafficking routes in African countries, including Zimbabwe.

Kinahan had attempted to move to Zimbabwe and had started a transport business in the country.

On March 7, 2004, Zimbabwean authorities arrested 64 mercenaries led by Simon Mann who were on their way to stage a coup de tat in Equatorial Guinea in an attempt to oust President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

The mercenaries’ plane was intercepted at the Harare International Airport, now Robert Mugabe International Airport after Mann was tricked by Colonel Tshinga Dube into believing he had made a deal with the Zimbabwe Defence Industries to buy AK 47 rifles, mortars and ammunition worth USD$180 000.

Equatorial Guinea authorities had also arrested 15 other mercenaries in the capital Malabo, who confessed they were working for the country’s exiled opposition leader, Severo Moto.

Earlier this year, Zimbabwean authorities assisted the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), the organisation charged with tracking down fugitive criminals, joining a taskforce to coordinate the inquiry into the whereabouts of Protais Mpiranya, a fugitive from Rwanda who had sneaked into the country under another name.

While there have been attempts by international drug smuggling criminals to use Zimbabwe, together with Malawi, Mozambique and other African countries as transit countries, Zimbabwe’s laws have prevented drug traffickers from targeting the country.

And the latest case of Kinahan has proved that Zimbabwe is a law abiding nation which would never harbor criminals.

According to the Irish police, or Gardaí, Kinahan begun working on his Zimbabwe exit plan about five years ago.

He flew to Zimbabwe between March and April just before the US imposed sanctions on him.

The ICIJ reports that Sources detailed Kinahan’s attempt to establish a hideout in Zimbabwe in recent years, at the same time as he was attempting to pull off a string of aviation deals. His connections to Zimbabwe are being reported here for the first time.

Leaked correspondence reveals how Kinahan oversaw the Egypt project while operating under his assumed name, Christopher Vincent. Taken together, the images and documents show the crime boss building international relationships with established humanitarian aviation partners as a cover for potential illicit activities.

The attempted purchase of planes from the Egyptian air force was one of several Kinahan efforts to buy old military aircraft in Africa. Sources said that Kinahan had various plans for the planes: to refurbish some to use in relief and tourism flights; to resell some whole or as parts; and to keep others.

At the time of the attempted Egyptian aircraft purchase, Kinahan faced passport fraud charges in Spain, where he was accused of using fake British and Irish travel documents. His name appeared frequently in news articles about a wide array of his alleged crimes.

A central player in the attempted deal was a Zimbabwean businessman named Adam Lincoln Woodington Wood. Wood appears with Kinahan in several photos in the cache of documents. In one, Kinahan, dressed casually in a light blue shirt and gray trousers, is grinning beside his then trusted business associate.

In 2020, a Dubai company linked to Kinahan, Sea Dream Middle East General Trading LLC, tried to purchase as many as nine used de Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalos from the Egyptian air force, according to documents obtained by Malawi’s Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ) and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Hundreds of documents show Kinahan micromanaging elements of the deal, including setting up a website, and attempting to strike similar deals in Africa and Latin America. He explored buying an Antonov An-26 turboprop in Venezuela.

The documents are part of a cache of leaked material that includes remarkable photographs of the photo-wary crime boss. Key events and individuals revealed in the documents were verified independently by multiple sources.

Kinahan sought to buy the DHC-5 Buffalos, renowned for their short takeoff and landing capabilities,while posing as a humanitarian aviation consultant. He did so with the assistance of a woman who sources say is his long-term partner, and a group of associates using companies in Dubai, Singapore and Malawi.

The 65-year-old is the leader of one of Europe’s most notorious gangs, a narcotics, money-laundering and arms-trafficking cartel with ties to Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, too. Dubbed the “Dapper Don,” he holds Irish and U.K. passports, speaks with an Anglo-Irish accent and has lived in Spain and Belgium. He reportedly can converse in French, Dutch and Spanish.

Identity page of Kinahan’s passport

Kinahan, who according to the U.S. Treasury Department is based in Dubai,  has presented himself on websites and social media sites, including LinkedIn, as an aviation and business consultant called Christopher Vincent. Kinahan, whose middle name is Vincent, has used multiple business names that include the initials CV, such as CVK Investments, and a Twitter handle, @CVBizbroker.

He is a convicted heroin dealer, fraudster and money launderer. The United States has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest and/or conviction.

The fresh cache of Kinahan documents shines a light on the inner workings of a shadowy operation that apparently was intended to provide planes to a notorious crime boss so that he could more easily move drugs, money, people — or whatever else he desired — around Africa and the Middle East.

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