GREAT ESCAPES ANALYSIS
Dubye to justice – alleged drug kingpin wanted by the Dutch also freed in Gupta-style UAE extradition saga
In November, alleged drug kingpin Edin ‘Tito’ Gacanin was arrested in Dubai in a global crackdown and the Netherlands wanted him sent there. Instead, he was freed amid claims that the extradition paperwork wasn’t correct. This case mirrors that of the Guptas.
The US has described Edin “Tito” Gacanin, of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as “one of the world’s most prolific drug traffickers”.
Daily Maverick previously reported that there were suspicions that Gacanin, who also has Dutch citizenship, may have been operating by way of the Port of Durban, where massive cocaine consignments have been intercepted.
Drugs and money laundering
Last month the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced that it was sanctioning Gacanin, among others.
— Europol (@Europol) March 15, 2023
It alleged: “Gacanin is the leader of the Tito and Dino Cartel, which includes his family members and his friends…
“In addition to narcotics trafficking efforts across a number of countries, Gacanin’s cartel is involved in money laundering and is closely linked to the Kinahan Organized Crime Group, a Transnational Criminal Organization.”
The Kinahan Cartel stems from Ireland and may also have links to South Africa.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Clash of the Cartels – revealing the global organised crime networks that exist right under your nose
In the Gacanin case, the US listed countries associated with him as Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Gacanin was arrested in Dubai in November 2022 during what European police said was a crackdown on a “super cartel” responsible for a third of Europe’s cocaine trade.
A Dutch police press statement, without naming Gacanin, said he was suspected of being an “organiser, broker and financier in the import of 739.5 kilos of cocaine from Durban (South Africa) to Rotterdam”.
It said an extradition request for his return to the Netherlands would be made to the UAE.
The UAE has something of a reputation for being a criminal haven and Dubai has cropped up in several intriguing cases, some linked to South Africa.
In the Gacanin case, it emerged that after his arrest he was freed from custody in Dubai, which surprised the Netherlands.
In January the publication Vice reported: “He was freed completely – neither on bail nor facing extradition – on the 29th of December amid claims in the Dutch media that the Netherlands failed to provide proper extradition paperwork within 40 days, despite Dutch prosecutors arguing the paperwork was properly submitted on time.”
It is correct that this person was arrested on request of the Dutch prosecutor. A few days later he was released. I can’t explain the reasons.
Lawyer Leon van Kleef was quoted in other publications as saying that Gacanin, who appeared to be his client, had been released from custody according to legal regulations.
On Thursday, 13 April Daily Maverick sent a query to Van Kleef to establish more details. He appeared to have read the query but had not replied to it by the time of publication.
‘He was released’
Dutch Public Prosecution Service spokesperson Wim de Bruin confirmed to Daily Maverick that Gacanin was no longer detained in Dubai.
De Bruin said: “It is correct that this person was arrested on request of the Dutch prosecutor. A few days later he was released. I can’t explain the reasons. That is up to the Dubai authorities.”
In January he told a Dutch publication that there had been no bungling of extradition paperwork.
De Bruin was quoted as saying: “We know the stories about the documents being submitted too late. That is not true. We are working to find out exactly what the cause is.”
The Gacanin detention and release saga is similar to what has happened to the Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh, who are wanted in South Africa in connection with State Capture crimes.
Detained in Dubai
In June 2022 the brothers were arrested in Dubai. (A third brother, Ajay Gupta, was not detained.)
The Dubai police had issued a statement saying the brothers had been taken into custody “in connection with money laundering and criminal charges in South Africa”.
— Dubai Policeشرطة دبي (@DubaiPoliceHQ) June 7, 2022
But last week it emerged that South Africa’s request to extradite the brothers from the UAE was turned down during a hearing in Dubai that had already taken place in February this year.
Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said last week: “The reasons provided for denying our request are of a technical nature and fly in the face of the assurances given by Emirati authorities that our requests meet their requirements.”
This week, Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee reported that several legal sources had also said that UAE prosecutors had confirmed in writing to South African authorities that the extradition documents were up to scratch.
She also reported that despite saying certain things – for example, that they told their South African counterparts about the Gupta court appearances – the UAE authorities had not done so.
Aside from these extradition sagas there are other parallels between the Guptas and Gacanin.
One is that the US has targeted them.
Like it did with Gacanin last month, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta in 2019, along with their associate Salim Essa.
Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker had said: “The Gupta family leveraged its political connections to engage in widespread corruption and bribery, capture government contracts, and misappropriate state assets.
“Treasury’s designation targets the Guptas’ pay-to-play political patronage, which was orchestrated at the expense of the South African people.”
Politics and sealed testimony
The Guptas previously cropped up in a report relating to mass drug smuggling.
In April 2019, Vrye Weekblad reported that Mandrax kingpin Vijaygiri “Vicky” Goswami had alleged in sealed grand jury testimony in the US that the Gupta family was involved in money laundering on behalf of Muhammad Asif Hafeez of Pakistan.
Hafeez is detained in the UK and faces possible extradition to the US, where authorities have alleged that he is a drug trafficker also known by the nickname “Sultan”.
He is wanted in the US in a case Goswami is linked to.
Nothing happened publicly in terms of the claims of Gupta links to Hafeez which reportedly emanated from Goswami.
A convict freed in Dubai
Daily Maverick previously reported that Goswami, originally from India and who was once based in South Africa, was extradited from Kenya to the US in 2017 in a drugs case.
It is believed he turned state witness in the US.
In public testimony in 2019 he alleged that he and others tried to dominate South Africa’s drug trade, even seeing to it that a murder was carried out in this country.
Goswami was detained in Dubai in 1997 and given a life sentence for Mandrax smuggling. According to his testimony in the US, this sentence was eventually reduced to 15-and-a-half years and he was released from a Dubai jail in December 2012.
Goswami had alleged that for years, in exchange for a pardon, he worked with a senior Dubai intelligence boss while in jail. The pardon did not materialise and instead he was granted an early release from a Dubai jail, from where he said he had run South Africa’s Mandrax trade. DM
Caryn Dolley has spent years tracing the footprints of crime/drug kingpins from across the world. In her latest book, Clash of the Cartels, Dolley provides unprecedented insight into how specific drug cartels and syndicates have operated via South Africa, becoming embroiled in deadly violence in the country and bolstering local criminal networks. Available now from the Daily Maverick Shop.