The arrest of a man who international police forces say is a key cartel financier has further tightened the stranglehold on the Kinahan hierarchy as it scrambles to shore up its cash-flow system.
Ardaí believe John Morrissey, described by Europol as one of the continent’s top money launderers, is a key link between cartel boss Daniel Kinahan and his associates.
The 62-year-old’s arrest was caught on police video as he sat shirtless and wearing colorful shorts on the couch of his palatial home in Malaga, where he continued to openly live despite pressure from global crime agencies.
The unceremonious nature of his arrest is the least of the concerns of the Kinahan leadership – sources say they have now lost one of their key cash dealers.
Morrissey is suspected of laundering more than €200 million for various crime gangs in just over a year and a half and is believed to be a leading ally of the Kinahan cartel.
His standing within the criminal organization was confirmed last April when he, along with six other high-level cartel members, was financially sanctioned by the US government for his ties to the Kinahans.
The Guardia Civil estimates that Morrissey laundered more than €200 million in 18 months, which is about €350,000 a day
As he sits in a Spanish jail cell waiting to hear what charges he may face, efforts are already being made to keep the money flowing.
“Morrissey is the guy handling the pay,” a source said. “If you need money he is the connection and if you need to get money to Dubai you go to him. But without Morrissey, that connection is closed — at least for now.
“It’s going to cause problems for the foot soldiers in Dublin, Birmingham, Manchester or wherever, who obviously won’t be happy if they don’t get paid. And for Kinahan himself, who will be worried about his own cash flow.
“He needs money to get ahead of the game and keep the show going. If that stops, he’ll be in serious trouble and no doubt they’ll already be trying to fix that.”
As Kinahan tries to avoid prosecution, efforts continue to indict him for organized crime-related offenses.
Morrissey’s arrest is the first among the Kinahan Seven, but police forces are confident it won’t be the last.
The gang’s hierarchy remains in Dubai while trying to stay out of the reach of law enforcement in Europe and the US – including leader Daniel, his brother Christopher Jr. and their father Christy Sr.
Another senior official, Sean McGovern of Crumlin, is also in the Middle East. Gardaí are trying to charge him with murder and organized crime.
The other two members of the Kinahan Seven are Ian Dixon, who is suspected of serving as the cartel’s accountant, and Bernard Clancy, a key lieutenant hired by Daniel Kinahan to pay wages to the cartel members.
While Morrissey gained worldwide notoriety in April when he appeared on the US government sanctions list, he had been linked to organized crime in Ireland and Britain for four decades and was one of the first targets of the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab).
Even the investigations that led to his arrest on Monday preceded his appointment by the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC).
Around 200kg of cocaine and €500,000 in cash were found hidden in cars in Malaga early last year and Morrissey was targeted by Spanish police.
Since then, the Guardia Civil estimates that Morrissey has laundered more than €200 million in 18 months, equivalent to around €350,000 a day.
The Kinahans weren’t his only affiliation, and police believe he cleaned dirty money from several different criminal groups. Spanish authorities described him as a “high value target” and “the most important” money launderer there, while Europol believes he was one of the biggest players in Europe for money laundering.
Officials said it was done through the “hawala” method — an informal method of transferring money without actually moving any money.
Dating from an ancient trading system in the Middle East that used brokers to securely deliver funds, today’s criminal gangs use code numbers or tokens to ensure the safe transfer of funds.
The Guardia Civil says there are no legal records of these operations or the identification of customers, while the origin and destination of the funds are also unknown.
“For this reason, they are used by criminal organizations around the world, as well as by terrorist groups, to hide or send illegally sourced profits to tax havens,” the Forcey said.
Europol also said Nero Drinks Company Limited, a premium vodka brand operated by Morrissey, is being used to disguise the source of its revenue.
Nero Vodka was launched publicly during the Covid pandemic in December 2020, in line with Morrissey, who was openly living in Spain. The company was also named by OFAC in April.
US officials believe a significant portion of this Morrissey deal was given to Daniel Kinahan to compensate for confiscated drug shipments.
The alleged financier is currently in custody pending a judge’s investigation.
His arrest as part of Operation Whitewall was one of four in Spain and Britain, while 11 searches were also carried out.
On Monday, police also seized vehicles containing funds, cash, documents and electronic devices they say are “of significant interest to the investigation” and could lead to future arrests.
An arrested suspect ran a car dealership and is suspected of providing the criminal organization with vehicles that had hidden compartments for transporting large amounts of cash.
The ‘Day of Action’, led by the Guardia Civil and Europol, was also attended by the UK’s National Crime Agency, the DEA, the Dutch Police and Gardaí who were present at the operation.
Live investigations also continue, with increasing efforts to disrupt drug import networks from Dubai and Spain to Ireland and the UK.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/crime/cartel-boss-daniel-kinahan-will-be-worried-about-cash-flow-after-money-laundering-suspect-john-morrisseys-arrest-in-spain-41993431.html Cartel boss Daniel Kinahan will be concerned about liquidity after the arrest of money laundering suspect John Morrissey in Spain