Manchester-born mobster Johnny Morrissey had long demonstrated his loyalty to the Kinahan Cartel.
The former target of the Criminal Assets Bureau who fled Ireland in the mid-1990s is the suspected leader of the huge money laundering operation.
Spanish police described it as “the most important international criminal organisation that operated in Spain dedicated to money laundering.”
Until he became one of seven people sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Asset Control as part of the Kinahan Cartel, he posed as a successful businessman on the Costa del Sol.
Through the Nero Vodka brand, run by his wife Nicola, he pedaled the image of a legitimate entrepreneur and bon viveur enjoying the fruits of his success.
This week the Spanish police said the “facts were totally different” and “the company could not be supporting the standard of living of the detainees.”
He had been targeted in ‘Operation Whitewall’ after the seizure of 200 kilos of cocaine in Malaga in early 2021 along with €500,000 cash found in a vehicle with specially adapted hidden compartments.
Even before being sanctioned last April, Morrissey had demonstrated his loyalty to the Kinahan Cartel.
He took part in an online campaign by Daniel Kinahan to promote a conspiracy theory that the Regency Hotel attack had been set up by the gardaí with the help of the media
Morrissey had also been a guest at his Dubai wedding in 2017 which has since emerged as having attracted the interest of the US Drug Enforcement Agency thanks to the number of mobsters at the party.
The grim reality is that Morrissey carved out his reputation as a gangland thug who had been suspected of involvement in dozens of murders even before his arrival in Ireland in the 1990s.
Despite his charm Morrissey was described as being a ‘highly dangerous and violent man’ implicated in 38 murders whose main criminal business was that of an assassin.
Sources say Morrissey had been sourcing cocaine via Russian gangs who organised it to be dropped off the Irish coast where he retrieved it for distribution in the UK and Ireland.
Back then he also tried to pass himself off as the charming party-loving host having moved to Kinsale in Co Cork.
He became known as ‘Johnny Cash’ with everything paid for in cash including the estimated €600,000 refurbishment on his property.
Former Criminal Assets Bureau chief officer Felix McKenna previously told the Sunday World how Morrissey’s love of flashing drew their attention.
“He wasn’t shy at all, he was a man about town he had the spondoolicks in his pocket to flash and he wasn’t afraid of flashing it.”
The Englishman became one of the first targets of the newly-formed CAB after it was learned he had as serious criminal background outside of Ireland.
Explaining why Morrissey is on their sanctions, the US Treasury Department stated in April: “John Morrissey has worked for the KOCG for several years, including as an enforcer, and facilitates international drug shipments for the organization from South America.
“John Morrissey is also involved in money laundering.”
The former CAB boss Felix McKenna said at the time “gratifying” to see Morrissey the subject of international efforts to crackdown on organised crime.
“He fell into a group of criminals who left the south of Ireland and Dublin following the formation of CAB and they made a lot of money abroad and still make a lot of money in the narcotics business.”
“It’s fantastic to see what happened last week in regards to the issuance of the notices by the US authorities and the rewards.”
“Hopefully, these men are all incarcerated in the forthcoming years and locked away for a long time.”
“It is very satisfying to see the agencies that can work together both in Ireland and in the European context and now the global context to actually lock away these criminals.”
“Great credit is due to the guards on this. They talk about these guys being Irish criminals but in actual fact those characters have made all their money abroad since they left the jurisdiction.”