Major blow to Kinahan cartel as key member Johnny Morrissey is arrested in the Costa del Sol
15th September 2022
Police have dealt a devastating blow to the Kinahan cartel with the arrest of one of their seven “key members” at his Costa del Sol bolthole.
Detectives from six different police forces, including the Spanish Civil Guard, An Garda Síochána and the powerful US Drug Enforcement Administration, took part in the operation to arrest Johnny Morrissey (62).
He smiled initially after being surrounded by police and was handcuffed. However, his grin turned to a grimace as he was led away and tried to hide his face when he realised press photographers were present.
A woman who was in the house was also arrested. She gestured to photographers as she was walked out of the property by armed Spanish police.
Morrissey appeared in court yesterday after spending two nights in police custody. Sources said he was remanded in custody by a judge pending an ongoing probe. The woman was released.
Spanish police have yet to make any official comment on Monday’s arrests, and are not expected to do so until today at the earliest.
Another suspect arrested in Spain as part of the police operation was also remanded in custody after appearing in court yesterday, but no name and nationality details were released.
But it can be revealed that Morrissey, a former doorman in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, and who was nicknamed Johnny Cash when he ran a restaurant in Cork in the 1990s, was held on suspicion of crimes including money laundering following an operation led by Spanish police and coordinated across two continents.
His arrest comes five months after he was identified as a key player in the Kinahan cartel, and just over a week after it emerged gardaí were analysing crucial information that could help prosecute members of the notorious criminal gang.
Yesterday’s court appearance in the holiday resort of Marbella, to determine whether Morrissey and the woman should be granted bail, was held behind closed doors – as is normal in Spain, where only trials take place in public.
Morrissey, who is an Irish passport-holder, 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).
He is considered to be a key member of the cartel, has been a close friend of Daniel Kinahan’s and was a guest at his Dubai wedding in 2017.
The US authorities said of Morrissey: “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 Kinahan, described in the same statement as “playing an integral part in organising the supply of drugs in Ireland”, his father Christopher and veteran Dublin-born criminal Bernard Clancy.
The other people named as part of a $5m appeal for information were Christopher Kinahan Jr, Daniel Kinahan’s “adviser 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 also runs Nero Drinks Company Ltd, a vodka firm based at an address in Glasgow, with another person. It was one of three companies included in the list and banned from trading in the US.
Morrissey, who courted celebrities including models and reality TV stars as the ambassador of the drinks business, fled Ireland more than 20 years ago after reportedly being involved in a bid to harm a Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) officer.
Former CAB officer Felix McKenna – who earlier this year linked Morrissey to the attempt to intimidate or even kill a prominent CAB officer before he left Ireland, having had more than €600,000-worth of cash and property seized – welcomed Morrissey’s inclusion in the US sanctions list in April.
Speaking to the Sunday World at the time, he said: “He fell into a group of criminals who left Ireland following the formation of CAB and made a lot of money abroad and still make a lot of money in the narcotics business.”
Morrissey had, until now, remained a step ahead of the law. Although he is the chief suspect for several unsolved murders in the UK, he has avoided serious criminal convictions.
Spanish police and their counterparts from other law enforcement agencies are believed to have searched several properties with a court warrant, including Morrissey’s house near Marbella and business addresses, as part of the operation which resulted in his arrest.