herald

Friday 23 February 2018

Cartel's main coke man 'El Rico' busted

Cocaine wholesaler ‘El Rico’ is taken into custody
Cocaine wholesaler ‘El Rico’ is taken into custody

The Kinahan cartel's cocaine wholesaler has been arrested in South America and is expected to be returned to the Netherlands, where he is under investigation for his part in a vile drug war that has seen a severed head left on an Amsterdam street.

In a major blow to the organisation, Richard Eduardo Riquelme Vega, nicknamed El Rico (the Rich One), was lifted in a luxury hotel in Santiago in Chile two weeks ago after a request from Dutch authorities.

Known as "the most dangerous Chilean in the world", El Rico and his Moroccan associates in the Netherlands have forged tight links with the Kinahan mob and supply them with all their drugs from South America.

His arrest is part of an international police effort to tackle a drugs cooperative that has built up in Europe, with the Kinahan gang at the helm. El Rico (42), had flown to Chile from Dubai before his arrest. It is understood that while there he was in contact with Daniel Kinahan, Christopher Kinahan Jnr, their father Christy Snr and other key members of the gang who are all holed up in the United Arab Emirates.

He is wanted in the Netherlands, where a drugs war broke out in 2012 between Moroccan gangs that has brought a new level of gangland violence to Europe, and one which has spurred police forces, including An Garda Siochana, into an unprecedented level of cooperation.

The feud in the Netherlands has resulted in 16 killings there, in Belgium and in Spain and culminated in a human head being left outside a cafe in Amsterdam last year.

The torso of 23-year-old Moroccan Nabil Amzieb was discovered in a burning car the previous day.

The placing of the head on a busy street early in the morning in a European city was a clear message to authorities and rival gangsters that this was a gang war on a par with the chilling violence seen in Mexico.

Laundering

El Rico is believed to be on the top rung of the gang responsible for the beheading and is the right-hand man of Naoufal Fassih, who was arrested in Dublin last year in a Kinahan safe house and returned to the Netherlands to face charges related to organised crime and money laundering.

Last week, a Chilean newspaper said El Rico is one of the most wanted criminals in Europe and had returned to Santiago on October 17.

Christy Kinahan
Christy Kinahan

While a native of Chile, he has lived in Holland, Spain, Germany, Brazil and the Arab Emirates.

Chilean media reported that his police record shows his first arrest for cocaine trafficking dates back to 1990 in Germany.

Since then, he has been on the radar of Dutch police for organising major drug shipments and money laundering. When he was arrested he was found with a number of fake documents.

When Fassih was arrested, it was discovered that the Kinahan cartel had supplied him with false passports. He was even given protection in jail by Kinahan associates.

The arrest of El Rico is yet another major blow to the Kinahans. Over 18 months, garda operations have seized €4m in cash, €55m in drugs and almost 40 firearms from the State's biggest crime gang.

Naoufal Fassih
Naoufal Fassih

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