A former Liverpool football prodigy has been jailed for more than 13 years for taking part in a vast drug 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 drug plot, along with a third man, money launderer Nasar Ahmed, 51.

All three were jailed at Manchester Crown Court for involvement in the cocaine drugs operation, dealing 356kg of the drug, worth around £26 million, with £10 million in cash changing hands in the space of three months.

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 winning 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 the leading scorer for England’s under-16s team.

“The following season, he was the 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 entirely wrecked his career.”

All three had been in custody since they were arrested in 2020. Jonathan Cassidy and Ahmed had admitted at an earlier hearing to the importation of drugs in April and March 2020.

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” in 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 drug 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 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.

Jonathan Cassidy sent an associate a picture of the actor playing Joaquin Guzman in the TV programme Narcos, known as El Chapo, and joked that they shared the same birthday, the court heard.

He used 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 an emergency warning that law enforcement agencies had compromised the system.

That night, Ahmed’s internet use showed him searching for 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, so he returned to the UK—where he was promptly arrested and charged.

Police found £24,430 in cash, a United Arab Emirates residence card and driving licence, large amounts of designer clothing, and a Rolex perpetual watch worth around £250,000 at his home in Whitewood Park, Liverpool.

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 drug 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.