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Dubye to justice – alleged drug kingpin wanted by the Dutch also freed in Gupta-style UAE extradition saga

Dubye to justice – alleged drug kingpin wanted by the Dutch also freed in Gupta-style UAE extradition saga
European police say that in November 2022 they started dismantling a ‘super-cartel’ that controlled a third of Europe’s cocaine trade. Several arrests were made in Dubai and one of those suspects was allegedly linked to cocaine trafficking via Durban. (Photo: Europol)

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.

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).

Super cartel

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.

Paperwork parallels

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”.

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.

US sanctions

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.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    Dubai seems to be part of the problem. A rogue state where money, of which the Guptas and gangsters are not short, is king.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Yet … it is these very thugish states with huge cash to boost (probably making Switzerland look third rate) … with which relatively democratic states want to get into bed with ! See how they cosy up to them (e.g. Trump) for a share of their ‘loot’. Nor have they been ‘asleep’ and found that by buying up assets (e.g. expensive European clubs and tournaments) they can launder they cash with glee ! The recent LIV golf series is a prime example of how ‘rich’ golfers can be brought and bought into the fold of laundering ! Shameless flaunting of their mega-riches with no concern for ethics of sport.

      • Martin.Sewardcase says:

        Hi Kanu / Katherine
        contrary to popular belief; – dubai isnt as “rich” as many perceive. Having lived there for almost 20 years – its desperate to extract as much as it can from expats. in the case of the Guptas – who knows how much “influence” they had in helping sway the decision. its incredibly sad that a technicality was used to stop the extradition as Dubai had a massive opportunity to do “the right thing” – and put some distance between itself and such criminals….. big big missed opportunity from Dubais side.
        Kanu – LIV Golf is Saudi Arabia – not Dubai. LIV Golf and Saudi are not using “laundered income” to fund the expensive elite players they’ve invited. LIV Golf is using public funds generated from Oil revenues. We should try not to confuse the message and generalise as the GCC (Gulf States) are made up of 7 very very different countries….

  • Doug Bailey says:

    Maybe South Africans and Dutch will stop flying Emirates?

    • Luan Sml says:

      Agreed, thats a good way to show our displeasure with this entire Gupta saga and the UAE’s flip flopping on SA’s extradition requests… but hey, who wants to be a haven for money laundering and then extradite these very same “clients”?

  • Chris 123 says:

    It seems the UAE see money rather than morals, being more important. Due to their petro wealth they are putting a finger up to the west.

  • Chris 123 says:

    Watch documentary Gold Mafia 4 parts on YouTube big eye opener.

  • Epsilon Indi says:

    Is it at all surprising that a country like SA which does not respect the arrest warrants of the ICC and other countries is disrespected in turn. SA can’t behave like a bunch of reprobates when it comes to executing warrants of foreign organisations like the ICC then expect to have their extradition requests honoured in turn. What goes around comes around. Quite frankly it serves the retards in the SA government right that their requests are not honoured when they fail to honour those of others.

  • Libby De Villiers says:

    These drug lords, money launderers and international gangsters and politicians that aid them in their evil manoeuvrings are not deserving of human rights. The should be shot on sight with no further questions asked.
    They turn our world into a living hell while living royally off other people’s misery.
    Banning Emirates flights internationally as well as all flights to and from Dubai until these thugs have been handed over will help a lot, but there is not a politician in the world who is not complicit or with the body parts to do it.

  • John Counihan says:

    What a dirty little state is the UAE. They splatter their wealth around hyper-marketing of their “image” all over the place, including CNN, trying to portray a haven of pleasure, technology and even culture – whereas the reality is a gangster state welcoming international criminals to launder their ill-gotten gains in sleezy Dubai.

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