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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Gerard Couzens & Michael O'Toole

Kinahan sidekick laundered €350k a day in drug profits before arrest, Spanish cops claim

A key sidekick to Daniel Kinahan helped launder up to €350,000 in drug profits every day for 18 months, Spanish cops have claimed.

They estimated Irish citizen Johnny Morrissey’s scam saw him wash up to €200m for Kinahan, 45, in an 18-month period.

Detectives claim they have smashed the most important international criminal organisation in Spain specialising in cleaning dirty cash by arresting Morrissey, 62, at his Costa del Sol home on Monday.

READ MORE: Dramatic footage shows Kinahan enforcer being arrested in Spain

And in a fascinating insight into the criminal organisation led by Daniel Kinahan and his father Christy, 64 and brother Christopher, 41, Spanish detectives revealed they believed the cash had not been physically moved out of Spain.

They claimed it was spread throughout the world using an ancient money transfer system called Hawala.

The informal method of moving money, originating from an Arabic term for transfer or trust and involving a network of brokers, is known to have been adopted by criminal gangs who use code numbers or tokens like banknotes torn in half to prove cash is due.

A spokesman for the Civil Guard, in the police force’s first comments since the arrests of three people including Morrissey and his wife Nicola on Monday near Marbella, said: “The Civil Guard, through an operation dubbed Whitewall, has smashed the most important international criminal organisation that operated in Spain dedicated to money laundering.

“In a little over a year and a half they could have laundered more than EUROS two hundred million through the system known as Hawala.”

It emerged overnight Morrissey, identified by US authorities in April as one of seven leaders of the Kinahan Organised Crime Gang, had been held on suspicion of money laundering at his Costa del Sol home.

His wife Nicola, the CEO of a Glasgow-based vodka firm called Nero Drinks police are saying was used as a front, was also held although she was released after a court appearance on Wednesday. She is thought to have been freed on bail and remain under investigation although officials could not be reached early yesterday morning for comment.

The pair were pictured in handcuffs after their detentions, with Morrissey trying to cover his face and Nicola raising her middle finger to photographers as she was led away.

Johnny Morrissey was handcuffed by Spanish cops during a raid at his home (Guardia Civil)

Yesterday the Civil Guard released footage of the bald-headed Greater Manchester-raised expat sat bare-chested in a pair of tropical shorts in a chair as police searched his home.

Officers were also filmed putting wads of confiscated cash through counting machines and searching cars at a separate address which were allegedly used to move money and drugs in hidden compartments.

Monday’s arrests took place after a lengthy probe led by the Civil Guard Unit’s elite Central Operative Unit, responsible for the investigation and prosecution of the most serious forms of crime and organised crime.

Officers from the Garda, Britain’s National Crime Agency, Europe and the powerful US DEA law enforcement agency, took part in the culmination of the police operation.

And Paul Cleary, the assistant commissioner who is currently in charge of Garda investigations into Kinahan and other mobs, yesterday promised the international crackdown on the gang would continue.

He said: “The actions that have taken place over the past few days in Spain, highlight the resilience and determination of international law enforcement to combine our resources to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks.

“An Garda Síochána will continue to work closely with all our international partners, targeting transnational organised crime gangs who profit from drug trafficking and impact so negatively on our society and in particular those networks that cause the most harm to our communities here in Ireland.”

Spanish detectives said the starting point for the Spanish police investigation had been the seizure at the start of last year of 200 kilograms of cocaine – worth a whopping €14 million on - and nearly €500,000 in cash hidden in vehicles with “sophisticated concealment systems.”

One of the alleged members of the criminal organisation smashed by police ran a second-hand car dealership.

Nearly a dozen searches of residential and business premises took place in Spain as well as Britain, including two places in Glasgow thought to be related to Nero Drinks and one in Heywood in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

There were no arrests in the UK.

Referring to Johnny Morrissey although he wasn’t named in a Spanish police statement about the operation, the Civil Guard said: “The main target in Spain devoted himself to collecting large amounts of money in cash from criminal organisations operating in our country and handing it through the Hawala system to organised criminal groups in other countries and vice-versa.

“Investigators were able to corroborate that during the time the investigation lasted, he allegedly managed to transfer more than €200 million.”

Outlining the role Nero Drinks played, the Civil Guard said in a statement:

“The principal members of the organisation in Spain allegedly created a luxury vodka brand promoted at shows, parties and events at nightclubs and restaurants in luxury Costa del Sol environments, presenting it as a successful drinks brand.

“This couldn’t be further from reality because according to information from tax authorities, it couldn’t be funding the lifestyle of the people arrested.

“Similarly they allegedly created another firm in the UK which was dependent on another company created in Gibraltar, with the aim of hiding the true identity of the directors of the firms that were used to launder the money coming from Hawala.”

Johnny Morrissey, full name John Francis Morrissey, was one of seven people hit with sanctions in April and named by the US department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

The US authorities said of Morrissey, so close to cartel boss Daniel Kinahan he was invited to his wedding in Dubai in the summer of 2017: “John Morrissey has worked for the Kinahan Organised Crime Group (KOCG) for several years, including as an enforcer, and facilitates international drug shipments for the organisation from South America. John Morrissey is also involved in money laundering.

He was included on the list alongside the likes of Daniel, described in the same statement as “playing an integral part in organising the supply of drugs in Ireland”, his dad Christopher and veteran Dublin-born criminal Bernard Clancy.

The other people named as part of a US DOLLAR five million appeal for information were Christopher Kinahan Jnr, Daniel Kinahan’s “advisor and closest confidant” Sean McGovern and Ian Dixon who was arrested over the 2015 Costa del Sol murder of Gary Hutch but never charged.

Morrissey is the first on the list to be arrested since it was made public.

Nero Drinks Company Ltd was one of three companies included in the list and banned from trading in the States.

Johnny, who courted celebrities including models and reality TV stars as the ambassador of his wife’s drinks business, fled Ireland more than 20 years ago after reportedly being involved in a bid to harm a Criminal Assets Bureau officer in Ireland.

The Kinahan cartel gained notoriety around the world over a feud with the rival Hutch gang which has led to the deaths of at least 18 people in Ireland and Spain. Fugitive boss Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch was arrested in August last year near his bolthole in the Costa del Sol resort of Fuengirola and is due to be tried later this year for the February 2016 murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in Dublin.

BBC’s Panorama exposed Daniel Kinahan’s influence in world boxing in a documentary last year which led to calls for tighter regulation of the sport.

Two-time world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury reportedly dropped the Irishman as his negotiator after his “instrumental” role in brokering a two-fight deal with rival Anthony Joshua was outlined. Fury had previously thanked Kinahan on Instagram.

The 45-year-old Dubliner, now based in Dubai, insisted after the Panorama programme:” I am not part of a criminal gang or any conspiracy. I have no convictions. None. Not just in Ireland but anywhere in the world.”

Morrissey is being investigated on suspicion of money laundering and membership of a criminal gang, it was confirmed yesterday.

Sources close to the ongoing criminal probe also revealed the investigating judge had taken the exceptional measure of declaring it “secret” to protect the judicial proceedings.

The order, called ‘secreto de sumario’ in Spanish, means lawyers involved including Morrissey’s defence lawyer and the prosecuting attorney will be prevented from accessing case files.

It will last 30 days but can be extended for identical periods of time.

The order also prevents public officials from revealing details of the case files with breaches punishable by heavy fines.

Judges who make their investigations secret when cases are still in their infancy act out of a desire to avoid them being compromised by minimising the risk of leaks.

The move is also expected to delay Morrissey’s hopes of an early release on bail from his remand cell.

As well as the Irish passport holder, another man arrested on Monday whose name and nationality has not been revealed was also remanded in custody by Marbella’s Court of Investigation Number Five on Wednesday.

Sources confirmed 62-year-old Morrissey’s wife Nicola, 47, had been bailed but remained under investigation.

The Scottish expat businesswoman’s whereabouts yesterday was not known.

Her husband now faces the possibility of several months behind bars unless his lawyers can persuade the judge he is not a flight risk and should be allowed out on bail with conditions which would be likely to include the payment of a bail bond, surrender of his passport and the obligation to sign on at court every week or fortnight.

He has not yet been charged with any crime under Spanish law as formal charges are only laid shortly before trial around the time state prosecutors are invited to submit indictments.

Under Spanish law his status is currently that of an ‘investigado’ which literally means ‘investigated.’

The source said: “The crimes being investigated are money laundering and membership of a criminal organisation.

“The two men arrested on Monday and hauled to court on Wednesday have been remanded in custody and the woman provisionally released although she remains under investigation.”

The amount of evidence police have managed to build up against Morrissey is not yet clear.

Alfredo Rubalcaba, Spain’s Home Secretary when the Kinahans were held in May 2010 on the Costa del Sol as part of Operation Shovel, linked them at the time to a string of murders when he congratulated police after the raids.

In its early stages the judicial probe focused on allegations of drugs and weapons trafficking.

It emerged in 2014 a judge probing Christy Kinahan Sr and a gang of suspected accomplices including his two sons had decided to drop her behind-closed-doors investigation into those crimes and focus solely on other allegations they were facing including money laundering and membership of a criminal gang.

In September 2020 it was confirmed the money laundering and criminal association facets of the criminal investigation had been mothballed - and only five of the original 31 detainees told they now faced trial for lesser crimes which in most cases carry short prison sentences.

Those five include Christy Kinahan Sr, charged with passport fraud after allegedly using a fake travel document in the name of Michael Leslie Swift to fly from Madrid’s Barajas Airport to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil on April 30 2010.

No date for his trial has yet been set.

The case against Daniel Kinahan and his brother Christopher Jr were sensationally dropped before trial after prosecutors failed to build a watertight case against them.


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