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Lanarkshire Live

Lanarkshire vodka firm banned from trading in US after being put on red list

A Lanarkshire vodka firm with links to a notorious Irish drug crime family has been put on a red list by the United States government - banning it from trading in the USA.

Nero Drinks Company Ltd, based at a home address in Stepps, has been named as a key asset of the Kinahan family's operations by investigators from the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

The company, which produces Nero Vodka, is owned 'directly or indirectly' by Johnny Morrissey - a close pal and public supporter of gangster Daniel Kinahan.

Morrissey, who is believed to live on the Costa del Sol, launched the venture in 2020 with his wife Nicola.

She is listed as the firm's sole director in official Companies House records, but is not a direct target of sanctions.

The US Treasury says of the vodka firm: "Nero Drinks was designated for being owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, John Morrissey.

"John Morrissey, who outwardly serves as the Nero Drinks’ brand ambassador, is heavily invested in Nero Drinks and has given a significant portion of the business to Daniel Kinahan to compensate for loads of drugs seized by law enforcement.

Johnny Morrissey (centre) owns Scots booze firm Nero Vodka (Reach Plc)

"John Morrissey controls and operates Nero Drinks through his wife, the primary shareholder, who is used as a frontperson for his interests."

Kinahan - son of convicted Irish drug trafficker Christy Kinahan Senior - is a boxing promoter with links to stars like Tyson Fury.

He has been named in Irish courts as a leader in global organised crime networks despite having no criminal convictions.

US detectives say the Kinahan family's £1bn drug empire pours South American cocaine into Ireland - and is trying to import it into the UK.

Posters offering a reward for information on the Kinahans were revealed today (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

Working alongside bodies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the UK's National Crime Office, Irish cops and Europol, the Treasury has introduced sanctions for firms linked to the Kinahans - and issued warrants for the arrests of three of the family's figureheads.

It will offer rewards of up to $5m (£3.8m) 'for information leading to the arrest of Christopher Kinahan Senior, his son Christy Junior or Daniel', it announced at a press conference in Dublin on Tuesday.

The sanctions make it illegal for Americans to deal with Nero Vodka, along with the other companies and individuals named on the list.

Agencies hope the restrictions will put the squeeze on the gangsters behind the firms.

Daniel Kinahan (right) with boxer Tyson Fury (supplied)

The National Crime Agency says the Kinahan family is linked to over a dozen murders, firearms trafficking, money laundering and the distribution of "multi-million pound shipments" of drugs across the UK and Europe.

NCA officers are said to have prevented eight threats to life in recent years, and have seized dozens of firearms in their efforts to crack down on the gang.

The agency's deputy director of investigations, Matt Horne, said: “They thought they were untouchable but the sanctions imposed today will be a huge blow to the Kinahans.

"It has cut them off from the global financial system, making them toxic to legitimate businesses and financial institutions, and will cause other criminals to think twice about doing business with them."

Nero Drinks is listed as operating from Cumbernauld Road in Stepps (Google Street View)

Brian E Nelson, US under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said: “Criminal groups like the Kinahan organised crime group prey on the most vulnerable in society and bring drug-related crime and violence, including murder, to the countries in which they operate."

Also named on the sanctions list are Kinahan associates Bernard Clancy, John Morrissey himself, Ian Dixon and Sean McGovern, alongside two firms based in the United Arab Emirates, Hoopoe Sports and Ducashew General Trading.

Crooks with links to the Kinahans have recently found themselves behind bars thanks to international law enforcement operations.

Last month Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh, who ran the family's criminal operations in the UK, was jailed for 21 years along with brothers-in-law Gary Vickery and Daniel Canning, who were sentenced to 20 years and 19 and a half years respectively.

Evidence showed they were responsible for cocaine importations estimated to be up to £23.4m, and cannabis importations worth around £6.4m.

James Mulvey was arrested in Lithuania in 2017 after NCA investigators evidenced he trafficked drugs worth an estimated £68m. He is currently serving a 32-year jail term.

Daniel Kinahan has previously denied having links to organised crime.

Lawyers for Kinahan, who is believed to be living in Dubai, told the BBC last year: "The wild allegations about him running a violent cartel are false and have no evidential basis whatsoever."

In 2019, Nero announced a five-figure sponsorship deal with Hamilton Academical Football Club.

But the club have now confirmed the deal was cancelled because the drinks brand was 'not as successful as first hoped'.

A spokesman for the club said: "The commercial department confirmed that there was a proposed sponsorship deal advertising Nero Vodka in 2019.

"Banners and signage advertising Nero Vodka were implemented at the club’s stadium. The deal was cancelled prior to the pandemic.

"It is our understanding that the product was not as successful as first hoped and sponsorship was cancelled with payments ceased.

"As lockdown was imposed some of the signage remained up at New Douglas Park in the hope that we could attract further sponsorship in the future. With the football club impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic it was cheaper for the signage to be left rather than removed. "

Nero Vodka was contacted for comment.

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