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Cartel boss Daniel Kinahan will be worried about cash flow after money-laundering suspect John Morrissey’s arrest

With Spanish police raid, gangland figure loses key link to finance

James Morrissey (centre) after he was arrested in Spain

James Morrissey arrest

Robin SchillerIndependent.ie

The arrest of a man international police forces say is a key cartel financier has further tightened the stranglehold on the Kinahan hierarchy, who are scrambling to shore up their cash flow system.

Gardaí believe John Morrissey, described by Europol as one of the Continent’s biggest money launderers, is an important link between cartel boss Daniel Kinahan and his associates.

The 62-year-old’s arrest was captured on police video as he sat bare-chested and in colourful shorts on the couch of his palatial Malaga home, where he continued to live openly despite pressure from global crime-fighting agencies.

The unceremonious manner of his arrest is the least of the Kinahan leadership’s worries – sources say they have now lost one of their main cash handlers.

The arrest is a huge blow to cartel boss Daniel Kinahan

Morrissey is suspected of having laundered more than €200m in little over a year and a half for various crime gangs and is considered a leading ally of the Kinahan cartel.

His standing within the criminal organisation was confirmed last April when he was hit with financial sanctions by the US government for his links to the Kinahans, along with six other senior cartel members.

The Guardia Civil estimates that Morrissey has laundered more than €200m in 18 months, equating to about €350,000 a day

As he sits in a Spanish jail cell waiting to learn what charges he might face, efforts are already under way to keep the cash flowing.

“Morrissey is the man that deals with the pay,” a source said. “If you need money, he’s the link, and if you need to get money to Dubai, you go to him. But without Morrissey that link is closed – for now at least.

Johnny Morrissey being arrested in Spain© J.COSTA/SOLARPIX

“It will cause issues for the foot soldiers in Dublin, Birmingham, Manchester or wherever, who obviously won’t be happy if they’re not getting paid. And for Kinahan himself, who will be worried about his own cash flow.

“He needs money to stay ahead of the game and keep the show on the road. When that stops, he’s in serious bother, and they will no doubt already be trying to fix this problem.”

While Kinahan attempts to avoid prosecution, efforts are continuing to bring charges against him for organised crime-related offences.

The arrest of Morrissey is the first among the Kinahan Seven, but police forces are confident it will not be the last.

The gang’s hierarchy remain in Dubai as they attempt to stay out of the reach of law enforcement agencies in Europe and the US – including boss leader Daniel, his brother Christopher Jr and their father Christy Sr.

Another senior associate, Crumlin man Sean McGovern, is also in the Middle East. Gardaí are seeking to charge him in relation to murder and organised crime offences.

The other two members of the Kinahan Seven are Ian Dixon, suspected of acting as a cartel accountant, and Bernard Clancy, a key lieutenant tasked by Daniel Kinahan with providing wages to cartel members.

The US ambassador Claire Cronin announces a reward up to $15m for information leading to the dismantling of the Kinahan cartel. Photo: Frank McGrath

While Morrissey became known globally in April when he appeared on the US government’s sanction list, he had been linked to organised crime in Ireland and the UK for four decades and was one of the first targets of the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab).

Even the investigation that resulted in him being arrested on Monday pre-dated his designation by the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC).

Early last year, about 200kg of cocaine and €500,000 in cash were found hidden in cars in Malaga, and Morrissey came to the attention of Spanish police.

Since then, the Guardia Civil estimates that Morrissey has laundered more than €200m in 18 months, equating to about €350,000 a day.

The Kinahans were not his only affiliation, and police believe he cleaned the dirty money of several different crime groups. Spanish authorities described him as a “high-value target” and “the most important” money launderer there, while Europol believe he was one of the biggest operators in Europe for laundering cash.

Officials said this was done through the “Hawala” method – an informal way of transferring currency without any actual money being moved.

Originating from an ancient Middle Eastern trading system using brokers to safely deliver funds, today’s crime gangs use code numbers or tokens to ensure the safe transfer of money.

Cash seized during the arrest of John Morrissey

The Guardia Civil says there is no legal record of these operations or identification of clients, while the origin and destination of funds are also unknown.

“For this reason, they are used by criminal organisations around the world, as well as terrorist groups, serving to hide profits of illicit origin or to send them to tax havens,” the forcey said.

Europol also said that Nero Drinks Company Limited, a premium vodka brand operated by Morrissey, is used to disguise the source of his earnings.

Nero Vodka was publicly launched during the Covid pandemic, in December 2020, in keeping with Morrissey living openly in Spain. The company was also designated by OFAC in April.

US officials believe a significant portion of this business was given to Daniel Kinahan by Morrissey to compensate for seized drug shipments.

The alleged financier is currently remanded in custody while a judge carries out an investigation.

Spanish police during the raid on John Morrissey© PA

His arrest under Operation Whitewall was one of four made in Spain and the UK, while 11 searches were also carried out.

On Monday, police also recovered vehicles with funds inside, cash, documentation and electronic devices, which they said are “of great interest to the investigation” and may result in future arrests.

One suspect arrested ran a car dealership and is suspected of being in charge of providing the criminal organisation with vehicles that had concealed compartments used to transport large amounts of cash.

The “day of action”, led by the Guardia Civil and Europol, also involved the UK’s National Crime Agency, the DEA, Dutch police and gardaí, who were present for the operation.

There are also live investigations continuing, with increasing efforts to disrupt the drug importation networks run from Dubai and Spain into Ireland the UK.

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