An Irishman accused of being “one of Europe’s biggest money launderers” and a member of the Kinahan crime cartel has been remanded in custody in Spain.
The suspect is understood to be Johnny Morrissey, a 62-year-old Irish passport holder, who was arrested in Malaga on Monday.
He was in court in Spain on Wednesday in relation to money laundering.
But the hearing was held in private as is usual for Spanish pre-trial cases, according to Irish broadcaster RTÉ.
It reported that six international law enforcement agencies were involved in the investigation that led to Mr Morrissey’s arrest this week.
Those included Spain’s Guardia Civil, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (US DEA) and An Garda Síochána (the Irish police force).
The Kinahan crime cartel was originally based in the Republic of Ireland, where some members were involved in a high-profile feud with a rival crime gang which has claimed several lives since 2015.
Kinahan cartel suspects operate in several countries and some alleged members have recently been hit with international financial sanctions from law enforcement agencies in the US, the UK and Ireland.
Europol – the European Union’s police agency – released a statement after the arrest operation on Monday.
It did not name any suspect but it hailed the arrest of a man it described as “one of Europe’s biggest money launderers”.
“Linked to the Kinahan clan, the suspect is believed to have laundered €200m (£173m) in just over one year,” said Europol.
Europol claimed that an 18-month international investigation had led to the discovery that €200m had been laundered through the Hawala underground banking system, which it described as “an informal method of transferring money without any physical money actually moving”.
It revealed that some suspects had laundered money by creating a brand of vodka that was being sold in nightclubs and restaurants in Spain’s Costa del Sol “to disguise the source of their earnings”.
Europol also said that companies had been founded in the UK and Gibraltar to help launder illegal profits.
Two other suspects – a man and a woman – were also in court in Spain on Wednesday.
The man was also remanded in custody while the woman was released on bail.
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said it had searched addresses in Greater Manchester and Glasgow as part of the investigation.