Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Daily Record
Daily Record
Gerard Couzens

Scots couple accused of gangland money laundering arrested at Costa del Sol villa

The Scottish wife of a suspected gangland money launderer has been arrested along with her husband on the Costa Del Sol. Detectives claim they have smashed the most important international criminal organisation in Spain specialising in cleaning dirty cash by arresting Johnny Morrissey at his Costa del Sol home.

They have also arrested his wife Nicola, boss of a Glasgow-based Vodka firm, Nero Drinks. 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.

A spokesman for the Spanish Civil Guard told how the pair and a third suspect were arrested on Monday near Marbella.

He 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 £173,000,000 through the system known as Hawala.”

Mr Morrissey, identified by US authorities in April as a key aide of the Kinahan Organised Crime Gang, has been held on suspicion of money laundering at his Costa del Sol home. The police allege that his wife's Glasgow-based Nero Drinks was used as a front and she was also held although she was released after a court appearance on Wednesday.

She is thought to have been freed on bail and remains under investigation. Spanish police estimate that launderers for the Kinahan crime clan could have laundered £173,000,000 in the last 18 months.

And in a fascinating insight into the criminal organisation led by the Irish mafia family, Spanish detectives revealed they believed the cash had not been physically moved out of Spain, but spread throughout the world using an ancient money transfer system called Hawala.

Johnny and Nicola Morrissey (UGC)

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.

On Thursday, the Civil Guard released footage of the bald-headed Morrisey 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.

Detectives said the starting point for the Spanish police investigation had been the seizure at the start of last year of 200kg of cocaine and nearly £432,000 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.

As well as the three arrests in Spain, a former Costa del Sol-based Irish expat was held in the UK. 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.

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 £173,000,000."

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 alleged 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 $5m 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. Morrissey, 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.”

Don't miss the latest news from around Scotland and beyond - Sign up to our daily newsletter here.


Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.