Bahrain’s KHK Sports cuts ties with ‘senior figure’ in organized crime, Daniel Kinahan

Less than a month after KHK Sports hired Daniel Kinahan — a man identified by the High Court in Dublin as a “senior figure”…

By: Karim Zidan | 3 years ago
Bahrain’s KHK Sports cuts ties with ‘senior figure’ in organized crime, Daniel Kinahan
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Less than a month after KHK Sports hired Daniel Kinahan — a man identified by the High Court in Dublin as a “senior figure” in Irish organized crime — as a special advisor to their conglomerate, the Bahraini sports company announced it has cut ties with the gangland figure.

KHK’s decision to distance itself from Kinahan comes in the wake of renewed scrutiny into his criminal activities, and is a major blow to Kinahan’s attempt to rebrand himself as an international boxing figure.

KHK, which was founded by Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the fifth son of Bahraini ruler, King Hamad Al Khalifa, released a statement on Tuesday confirming the decision to part with Kinahan.

“KHK Sports confirms it has discontinued its engagement with Daniel Kinahan and he is no longer an advisor to KHK Sports.”

While the statement does not explain why KHK parted ways with Kinahan, it is likely due to pressure from the Irish government, which has reportedly been briefing the United Arab Emirates — where Kinahan resides — on the gangland figure’s criminal history, which includes his role as a “senior figure” of the Kinahan Organized Crime Group, Ireland’s largest narcotics and weapons traffickers, and one half of an ongoing gangland feud with the Hutch gang that killed 18 people to date.

Kinahan continues to deny his role in the family business, even claiming that he is the target of “offensive stories” by Irish media. However, he remains a “person of interest” for local Irish authorities and a key figure in Ireland’s organized crime network.

Despite Kinahan’s troubling history, he has since attempted to reinvent himself as a boxing promoter, which is how he ended up joining KHK Sports. Initially, KHK Sports hired Kinahan to “advise across KHK Sports entire portfolio, encompassing KHK MMA, KHK Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts Promotion and BRAVE Combat Federation.” Referring to the controversial figure as an “international boxing power broker,” KHK Sports added that Kinahan’s international connections would strengthen its brand and expand its international reach.

The press release concluded with the statement, “His Highness appreciates the tremendous value Mr. Kinahan will lend to the organization.”

KHK Sports has grown and expanded under the patronage of Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who — apart from being a Bahraini prince — is also a military officer with the rank of Major, the First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports. Since 2015, the sports conglomerate now holds several sports properties, including KHK MMA, KHK Boxing, KHK Racing, KHK Wrestling, KHK Cricket and MMA promotion BRAVE Combat Federation (Brave CF).

Through their association with Kinahan, KHK intended to host an international boxing summit in 2020, which they promoted as a “pioneering conference” that would see “industry leaders unite in a desire to take the sport of boxing to the next level.”

Kinahan was quoted in the press release as saying: “For years, the thought of getting all the world leaders in boxing into one room together would have been dismissed as fantasy. But the major players see the potential for growth within our industry and understand that the sky is the limit when different parties co-operate and collaborate. This truly groundbreaking event will capture the attention of boxing fans across the world and have a generational impact on our sport. In doing so it will realize a dream of His Highness Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa while leaving a legacy for Bahrain.”

However, it wasn’t Kinahan’s ties to Bahrain that reignited political pressure from the Irish government. Instead, it was heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury who renewed scrutiny after announcing that Kinahan was pivotal in brokering the upcoming fight between Fury and Anthony Joshua, which is rumoured to be taking place in Saudi Arabia.

‘Just got off the phone with Daniel Kinahan. He has just informed me that the biggest fight in British boxing history has just been agreed,’ Fury said. ‘Big shout-out, Dan. He got this done, literally over the line.’

Kinahan’s reported involvement in the bout had led to outrage among Irish politicians. Ireland’s Minister for Sport, Shane Ross, referred to it as “absolutely wrong and tragic” while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “taken aback” to hear Fury thank Kinahan and mention his name.

‘While I cannot comment on any particular garda (Irish police) operation,’ Varadkar said, ‘I can certainly assure you that there has been contact between (Ireland’s) Department of Foreign Affairs and the authorities in the United Arab Emirates about that matter.’

Fury had previously posted a picture of himself with Kinahan in 2017, highlighting a longstanding relationship between them. Despite his alleged criminal background, Kinahan continues to make appearances alongside notable fighters. In March 2020, he posed alongside UFC welterweight Darren Till and MTK Global’s Bahrain Brand Ambassador Mohamed Bin Mansoor Al Arayedh. When faced with criticism for his affiliation with the alleged leader of the drug trafficking ring, Till released a statement defending his “friendship” with Kinahan.

Kinahan remains wanted by Irish police over a failed plot to murder former Hutch associate Gary Hanley. He remains a person of interest in the ongoing conspiracy to murder probe by the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau. The National Crime Agency and the Spanish Police are also “very interested” in Kinahan’s current activities.

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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