Police have arrested “one of Europe’s biggest money launderers” after a raid in southern Spain, saying the British-Irish suspect is believed to have shifted more than 200 million euros ($200m) in illicit cash.
The operation led by Spain’s Guardia Civil and coordinated by Europol is seen as a significant blow against the notorious Kinahan organised crime group, which United States law officials have called “a threat to the entire licit economy”.
The chief suspect in the case was detained on Monday “as a result of an international law enforcement operation led by the Spanish Guardia Civil”, Europol said.
“Two of his associates were also arrested in Spain, and one in the United Kingdom,” Europol said in a statement on Thursday.
John Francis Morrissey
Europol did not name the suspect, but a source close to the investigation and Irish newspapers said he was John Francis Morrissey, 62, a known associate of the Kinahan gang.
Based out of Dubai, the Kinahan crime group – led among others by Irishman Daniel Kinahan – “smuggles deadly narcotics, including cocaine, to Europe, and is a threat to the entire licit economy through its role in international money laundering”, US Treasury Department Under Secretary Brain E Nelson said.
Morrissey peddled a brand of vodka along Spain’s tourist-heavy Costa del Sol, allegedly to disguise his white-washing activities, law officials said.
He also worked as an enforcer for the Kinahan cartel and helped with drug shipments from South America.
“[Morrissey] and his associates were in charge of collecting large amounts of cash from criminal organisations, which they would then ‘deliver’ to other criminal organisations in other countries,” said Europol.
Underground banking system
Using the so-called hawala underground banking system, which works on the basis of face-to-face transactions, “it is believed that the suspects have laundered over 200 million euros using this method”, Europol said.