Costa ‘con man’ behind famous vodka brand linked to 38 murders and ‘helped launder £173m’

SMILING for the camera next to celebrity couple Michelle Keegan and Mark Wright, Johnny Morrissey holds aloft a bottle of his family’s famous vodka.

The liquor brand, owned by his glamorous wife Nicola, had made the couple the toast of the Costa Del Sol, with celebrities lining up to pose with the luxury drink.


The glitzy lifestyle of Johnny Morrissey and wife Nicola saw Mark Wright and Michelle Keegan attend a party they threwCredit: Solarpix
Morrissey was taken away in handcuffs earlier this month after a dawn raid by Spanish police


Morrissey was taken away in handcuffs earlier this month after a dawn raid by Spanish policeCredit: Solarpix

But last week the glitzy lifestyle Johnny and Nicola Morrissey have built for themselves in Marbella came crashing down when they were arrested in their beds at gunpoint.

Now it is alleged that their company Nero Premium Vodka – named after the bloodthirsty fifth emperor of Rome – was just a front for a massive money laundering operation.

Johnny has been linked to 38 murders and is believed to be a key player in the Kinahan Cartel – an Irish crime syndicate believed to be involved in a multi-million pound drug trafficking racket.

And Spanish cops believe the 62-year-old, known as ‘Johnny Cash’, may have played a key role in laundering £173million in the last 18 months alone.

The Cartel Enforcer
Kinahan Cartel enforcer headed from Costa del Sol bolthole and his wife gives the finger

Many in Marbella weren’t surprised to see images of British-born Irish passport holder Johnny being led away in handcuffs while wearing garish tropical shorts.

At the glamorous pool parties held to promote his brand of vodka, there were always whispers of how he made his fortune.

Expat acquaintances on the sunny coast where he settled 20 years ago knew not to ask too many questions.

But celebrities who have promoted or posed with his vodka seemed unaware of his alleged criminal ties.


Strictly Come Dancing contestant Will Mellor described his vodka as “the best”, when tweeting the drink in 2019.

And the stars lined up to be photographed with Nicola and Johnny at glitzy parties.

The couple posed for selfies with actress Michelle and her husband Mark – with a bottle of vodka pictured.

It is understood the couple thought they were posing for a fan photo at the time and had no relationship with the Morrisseys.

And Celebrity Juice host Keith Lemon, real name Leigh Francis, also agreed to pose for snaps.

There is no suggestion he knew the Morrisseys or that any of the stars knew about the alleged crime.

Actor Will Mellor promoted the Nero vodka brand on social media


Actor Will Mellor promoted the Nero vodka brand on social mediaCredit: Solarpix
Mellor had met the Morrisseys at a party for their brand of premium vodka


Mellor had met the Morrisseys at a party for their brand of premium vodkaCredit: Solarpix
Comedian Leigh Francis has also agreed to pose for pictures for the Nero brand


Comedian Leigh Francis has also agreed to pose for pictures for the Nero brandCredit: Solarpix

Nicola and her husband officially launched their vodka with a lavish party at the five-star Puente Romano hotel in Marbella, on the resort’s famed Golden Mile, where Tom Cruise, Prince and Barbra Streisand stayed.

The gladiator-themed party, featuring fire dancers and acrobats, was the first of a number of ostentatious events, including a pool party where guests were entertained by the violinist world-class home Quike Navarro.

Last year, their vodka brand Nero was one of the sponsors of the 16th Marbella International Film Festival.

He was also the main sponsor of a nightclub premiere for the British gangster film Rise Of The Foot-soldier 4: Marbella.

A party regular said of the Morrisseys: ‘They never did anything halfway. You always knew that if they put on a show, the money was going to be thrown around like confetti.

As CEO of Nero Drinks Co, Nicola opened the £4.5million mansion they had called home until a few weeks ago for a Hello! glamorous mag-style shoot.

Business owner Nicola Morrissey posed with a Rolls Royce in her driveway


Business owner Nicola Morrissey posed with a Rolls Royce in her drivewayCredit: Solarpix
The Morrisseys lived in a lavish £4.5 mansion just outside Marbella


The Morrisseys lived in a lavish £4.5 mansion just outside MarbellaCredit: Solarpix

The brunette posed alongside a Rolls-Royce convertible on the way to the lavish seven-bed property with its own swimming pool behind high walls teeming with CCTV cameras on a leafy residential street just outside Marbella.

In the city’s business and lifestyle magazine, Exclusive Life, which recently featured David Beckham on the cover, she revealed plans to open a five-star wellness retreat in another mansion owned by her husband, near Fuengirola.

Shaved-headed Johnny and their ten-year-old private school-educated son also posed for the glossy shoot, which featured photos of them playing chess and drinking their vodka.

Nicola gushed: “All John and I do is provide a happy and safe life for Sean and our family.

“Like many business couples, John and I sometimes disagree, but we respect each other’s opinions and understand that we are both working towards the same goal.”

The attractive expat, known for her year-round tan and designer dresses, has also named April 2022 as the opening date for her retreat.

Fast forward to September 2022 and the once breathtaking property adorned with extravagant statues at the end of a winding cul-de-sac is a construction site.

Bags of sand and gravel lie next to the empty swimming pool and barbecue area where the couple used to entertain friends before moving to a new villa registered in Nicola’s name.

Now the suspected gangster languishes in prison near Malaga after being told he was being investigated on suspicion of money laundering and gang membership.

His 46-year-old wife, whom he married while dressed in a kilt at the five-star Dundas Castle near Edinburgh, was released after appearing in court but still faces a charge. investigation and had to surrender his passport.

Although she escapes prosecution, her husband’s future looks bleak as he ponders the sudden change in his fortunes from a cell in Alhaurin de la Torre maximum security prison.

Spanish authorities branded Nero a “front company” after arresting the couple, insisting there was no way to fund their lavish lifestyle.

Despite the celebrity endorsements, company accounts show that over the past year it has made a loss of almost £300,000.


Johnny’s party-loving reputation took a nosedive five months ago when US authorities named him a key member of the Kinahan Cartel.

Ireland’s main organized crime syndicate has gained worldwide notoriety thanks to a feud with rival gang Hutch that resulted in the deaths of at least 18 people in Ireland and Spain.

The group was thrust into the limelight in June 2020 when boxer Tyson Fury praised Daniel Kinahan, considered the current leader of the group, on social media.

Fury credited Dublin-born Daniel, now holed up in Dubai with his father and brother Christopher Jr, for helping him secure a two-fight deal with rival Anthony Joshua by taking to social media to say: ” Big cry Dan – he got this done.

The extraordinary moment caused enormous heat on the exiled boxer and mob boss, now on the run from the US government after placing a massive $5million bounty on his head and barring him from accessing held funds in banks controlled by the United States.

Morrissey had been identified as a “high-value target” by European crime organization Europol before his arrest, according to Spanish police.

And officers from six different law enforcement agencies run by Spain’s Civil Guard, including Britain’s National Crime Agency and the powerful US Drugs Enforcement Administration, took part in the operation which led to the British couple’s arrest September 12 in an apartment in Mijas.

Under Spanish law, Morrissey could be held behind bars for up to four years without charge unless his lawyers can convince a judge he is not a flight risk and should be released under strict bail.

A damning three-page statement, released by the Civil Guard and published on the official website of the Spanish Interior Ministry, states that they have eliminated “the most important international criminal organization operating in Spain dedicated to money laundering”.

The amounts of ‘dirty’ money he claims the gang were able to ‘clean up’ were astronomical – up to £302,000 a day and £173million over the 18 months of Operation Whitewall.

Morrissey and his wife are not named in the official press release, in line with strict Spanish suspect identification laws.

But the giveaway was photos of Morrissey walking out of his flat before trying to cover his face with his handcuffs when he saw a waiting snapper – and his wife raising her middle finger up as she followed.

Video footage released by police showing him shirtless in his living room as cops searched for secret hideouts also indicated their arrests.

Spanish police say mountains of cash are being laundered through an ancient money transfer system called Hawala, which bypasses traditional bank checks and avoids problematic border checks.

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It is known to have been adopted by criminal gangs who use code numbers or tokens like banknotes torn in half to prove that money is owed.

Now the Morrisseys’ luxury vodka brand is likely to be permanently frozen – with Johnny behind bars rather than having supper in it.

The couple's brand of vodka is accused of being a front for criminal enterprises


The couple’s brand of vodka is accused of being a front for criminal enterprisesCredit: social media collection

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