Suspected Kinahan cartel leading figure released in Spain after paying €60,000 bail

Johnny Morrissey (63), sanctioned with Kinahans by US law enforcement, had been held in custody since money-laundering arrest in Spain in September 2022

A man identified by US law enforcement as a key figure at the apex of the international Kinahan cartel has been released from custody in Spain after paying bail of €60,000. Johnny Morrissey was arrested in September 2022 as allegations he laundered money for the cartel were being investigated.

He is the latest figure linked to the cartel to be arrested in Spain, in high-profile operations, over the last decade only to be released from custody without charge. However, while no charges have been brought against him to date, he remains under investigation.

Morrissey was among seven criminals – including cartel founder Christy Kinahan and his sons Daniel and Christopher jnr – targeted by financial sanctions imposed in 2022 by the US department of the treasury, which said Morrissey was close to cartel leader Daniel Kinahan and invited to his wedding in Dubai in 2017.

Detectives from six different police forces, including the Spanish Civil Guard, An Garda Síochána and the US Drug Enforcement Agency, took part in the September 2022 operation which resulted in the arrest of Morrissey and two other people on the Costa del Sol.

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Spanish police said at the time the money-laundering network Morrissey was allegedly part of was capable of handling €350,000 per day, or €200 million in the 18 months before his arrest.

Officials in Spain confirmed Morrissey (63) had been released from custody after lodging a bail bond of €60,000, surrendering his passport and agreeing to an international travel ban. He is continuing to be investigated by a court in Marbella on suspicion of money laundering and membership of a criminal gang.

“There are several conditions attached to his release,” a spokesman for the investigating magistrate said. “They include a ban on leaving the country and the surrender of his passport, an obligation to sign on at court twice a month and the designation of an address.”

Morrissey, an Irish passport holder from Britain who has been based in Malaga for many years, ran a restaurant in Kinsale, Co Cork, in the 1990s before being targeted by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab). He had settled in Kinsale in the mid-1990s having left the UK, where he was involved in organised crime.

He bought a building in Kinsale and opened a restaurant in it after reportedly spending an estimated €600,000 to renovate it. He paid for much of the work in cash, leading to him being nicknamed ‘Johnny Cash’. He then left Ireland and resurfaced in southern Spain, where he became part of the high-end social scene around Malaga.

Through a luxury drinks brand he has been involved with, and which the US authorities have said he owns, he sponsored many social events and often posed with minor celebrities, sometimes sharing the photographs on his Twitter account.

When named by the US authorities as they announced the Kinahan cartel sanctions at an event in City Hall, Dublin, in April 2022, they said Mr Morrissey “worked for the [cartel] for several years, including as an enforcer”. They added he “facilitates international drug shipments for the organisation from South America” and was also “involved in money laundering”.

The US department of treasury further stated Mr Morrissey was the owner or controller, either directly or indirectly, of the Scottish-based Nero Drinks Company Ltd, which sells luxury alcoholic drinks and is one of the three companies now on the US sanctions list.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times