Former Liverpool football prodigy jailed for role in drugs plot

A former Liverpool football prodigy has been jailed for more than 13 years for taking part in a huge drugs conspiracy.

Jamie Cassidy, 46, was “drawn in” to crime by his older brother Jonathan Cassidy, 50, who likened himself to Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman, or El Chapo, one of the world’s most infamous traffickers, Manchester Crown Court heard.

The ex-footballer’s brother played a leading role in the international drugs plot, along with a third man, money launderer Nasar Ahmed, 51.

Nasar Ahmed
Nasar Ahmed was also jailed at Manchester Crown Court (GMP)

One-time England youth top scorer and football hot-property Jamie Cassidy laced his boots up alongside the likes of Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen as the Liverpool side they were part of won the FA Youth Cup in 1996, beating a West Ham team including Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard.

The midfielder suffered injuries early in his career, leaving Anfield after being released without making a first-team appearance.

Paul Greaney KC, defending Cassidy, said: “Jamie Cassidy was a footballer of exceptional talent and promise. He was signed by Liverpool Football Club in his hometown at the age of nine and, subsequently, along with Jamie Carragher, was rewarded with one of only 16 places at the FA’s Centre of Excellence.

“At 15, he was leading scorer for England’s under-16s team.

“The following season he was top scorer in the under-16s England team, with six goals, including three in the European Championships.

“In 1995/96 he won the FA Youth Cup alongside Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen.

“Then he broke into Liverpool’s first team, but two injuries then entirely wrecked his career.”

Drugs in a lorry
Jonathan Cassidy and Ahmed admitted importation of drugs in April and March 2020 (GMP)

The two, along with Jamie Cassidy, also admitted conspiracy to supply drugs and conspiracy to transfer criminal property.

Judge Nicholas Dean, Recorder of Manchester, jailed Jamie Cassidy, serving at HMP Liverpool, for 13 years and three months.

Jonathan Cassidy and Ahmed, Category A prisoners at HMP Manchester, both received 21 years and nine months in jail.

Earlier, Richard Wright KC, prosecuting, told the court that although Jamie Cassidy played no role in the importation of drugs, he still played a “significant role” passing on instructions and acting on the direction of others to ensure operations went smoothly and the drugs were distributed to dealers.

Meanwhile, his older brother played a “leading role” in drugs importation and the buying and selling of class A drugs while Ahmed acted as a middleman and “facilitator”, transferring vast sums of cash to buy and sell on drugs.

One associate was arrested in a car in Liverpool where police found two Asda bags for life containing £249,940.

The cocaine imported from Holland was used to supply users in north-west England, Birmingham and Leeds.

Nasar Ahmed and Jonathan Cassidy
Nasar Ahmed and Jonathan Cassidy (GMP)

He was the user of an encrypted EncroChat phone with the handle Whiskywasp and Jamie used NuclearDog on the secret communications service used by criminals.

In April and May 2020, fear was growing among top-tier criminals about the safety of the EncroChat network, with Cassidy among those switching to a SKY EEC encrypted device as an alternative.

On June 13 2020, EncroChat sent out an emergency warning that the system had been compromised by law enforcement agencies.

That same night, Ahmed’s internet use showed him searching Emirates airlines and travel updates.

Two days later, police were at his door on Moreton Drive, Bury, and he was under arrest.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Cassidy’s internet use showed he became preoccupied with on-the-run fugitives and ongoing arrests after police busted the EncroChat service, before leaving for Dubai.

There, he inquired with estate agents about purchasing a villa with a budget of £2.3 million, including a £22,000 bed.

After a wave of arrests, Cassidy began to believe he was one of the “lucky ones” whose EncroChat had not been compromised and so returned to the UK – where he was promptly arrested and charged.

The home bar at Cassidy’s home
The home bar at Cassidy’s home (GMP)

Jamie Cassidy was arrested at his home address in Knowsley, Merseyside, on November 5 2020.

While searching the property, officers found an encrypted phone, a black machete and a police case summary of a drugs operation they were running.

While Jonathan Cassidy and Ahmed had previous convictions for serious offences, Jamie Cassidy had a single conviction for shoplifting 18 years ago.

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