Liverpool

Liverpool football star turned drug kingpin faces life in jail over multi-million pound operation

Liverpool football star turned drug kingpin faces life in jail over multi-million pound operation

 

 

Jamie Cassidy, who played with the likes of Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen in Liverpool’s academy, had been tipped for the Reds’ first-team before injuries struck.

 

Jamie Cassidy had the world at his feet as a 12-year-old, tipped to line up with the future stars of Liverpool FC and England.

 

He was destined to shine in football’s biggest stadiums alongside legendary team-mates such as Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen. But following a spate of serious ­injuries he turned to a life of crime.

 

Now 46, he faces life in prison after admitting his role in a multi-million pound drugs operation, which shipped industrial amounts of cocaine from South America into Europe. Led by his older brother Jonathan Cassidy, 50, the racket transported hundreds of kilograms of drugs into Liverpool, a court has heard.

 

The consignments were hidden in modified vehicles and came via Amsterdam from Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. Once the cocaine landed in Merseyside, it was Jamie’s job to distribute it across England and Scotland through a network of trusted couriers.

 

Richard Wright, KC, prosecuting, said Jamie played an operational and managerial role in the cocaine importation business run by his brother, and Jonathan’s business partner Nasar Ahmed, 51. The foul play capped a shocking descent into criminality by the former prodigy, who aged 12 was accepted into the Liverpool FC academy ­alongside Carragher and Owen.

 

In his 2008 autobiography, Carragher said his old pal “would have been a certain Liverpool regular if he hadn’t suffered so much with injuries”. At 15, Jamie was the leading goalscorer for England Under-16s and had been taken under the wing of then Three Lions boss Glenn Hoddle.

 

He was a key figure in Liverpool’s first FA Youth Cup-winning squad in 1996, along with Carragher and Owen and David Thompson. They defeated a West Ham side containing Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand.

 

A n insider close to Jamie told the Mirror he was “a nice lad who went down the wrong path”. In a six-week period from April to May 2020, just months before their arrests, the Cassidys organised deals that brought drugs worth more than £28million to the UK.

 

The Merseyside pair laundered their money through a property business. The firm invested the cash in land and bought several sites in Liverpool, including a former cinema. But their drugs racket collapsed when the EncroChat encrypted communications system was busted by detectives in France, exposing ­thousands of criminals.

 

Prosecutors say they have only seen a snapshot of the operation, suspected to have been running for years. Mr Wright said the Cassidys used EncroChat devices, described as a “ WhatsApp for criminals”, where Jamie called himself Nuclear-Dog and Jonathan was Whisky-Wasp.

 

He told Manchester crown court: “The devices were used to arrange the purchase, importation, sale and distribution of multi-kilo quantities across the north of England. The linked conspiracy to transfer criminal property relates to the movement of close to £10m in cash in the space of three months.”

 

Working with the brothers was Ahmed, of Bury, Gtr Manchester, who acted as a middleman and money transfer agent, taking a cut from huge sums paid by the Cassidys’ customers. Jamie was also the bookkeeper, recording the quantities of cocaine sourced and delivered along with the millions of pounds in cash received.

 

In messages found on Jonathan’s phone he joked he had the same birthday as the notorious Mexican drugs cartel boss El Chapo. Following the Encrochat bust, Jonathan fled to Dubai, ordering his property business team to find him a villa with a budget of £2.3m.

 

He kept regular tabs on news stories about criminals who had been caught and jailed, and searched Jamie’s name online to see if he had also been apprehended. With a false sense of security he returned to the UK in October 2020 and was arrested at Manchester Airport.

 

Jamie was detained a month later at his home in Knowsley. Officers found his encrypted telephone, a black machete and the police file on the operation that led to his arrest. Jamie has admitted conspiracy to supply controlled drugs and conspiracy to transfer criminal property.

 

Jonathan, of Crosby, and Ahmed pleaded guilty to conspiracy to evade the prohibition on the importation of controlled drugs. They also admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and conspiracy to transfer criminal property. All three will be sentenced by the Recorder of Manchester, Judge Nicholas Dean, today.

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