A Lanarkshire vodka firm linked to a crime cartel was given taxpayer-funded handouts during the pandemic.
Nero Drinks Company Limited, run by Glasgow mum Nicola Morrissey and “enforcer” husband John, was given up to £10,000 as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
The pair are believed to run the drinks firm – who sell bottles of British-made vodka for around £30 each endorsed by celebrities – from their Spanish home in Puerto Banus near millionaires’ playground Marbella.
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Latest records show the firm employed just two people in 2020, including director Nicola, 46.
Husband John, 62 – named an associate of the Kinahan Transnational Crime Organization by US authorities last week – is a brand ambassador for Nero.
Despite social media posts showing the pair enjoying the trappings of wealth, the firm claimed money through the CJRS.
It is not known how much as HMRC have refused to disclose any claims over a year old when CJRS was introduced.
Nero Drinks – whose business HQ is listed as a £440,000 home in a residential street in the village of Stepps – was named part of KTCO’s network of business interests by US law enforcers who likened the crime clan to terror groups and the Italian mafia.
The US Treasury have offered a $5million reward for helping in convicting its kingpins, including boxing promoter Daniel Kinahan.
US authorities said: “John Francis Morrissey, who is currently based in Spain, was designated for materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the KTCO.
“John Morrissey has worked for the KTCO for several years, including as an enforcer, and facilitates international drug shipments for the organization from South America. John Morrissey is also involved in money laundering.”
There is no suggestion that his wife Nicola is under investigation or has committed any crime.
Nero Vodka was a sponsor of Hamilton Academical in 2019. But sources said it stopped paying sponsorship. An insider said: “Nero did a launch at the stadium with some glamorous models turning up with the Morrisseys there.
“But soon afterwards the money stopped coming in. It happens in football.”
Scottish Tory shadow community safety minister Russell Findlay said: “It’s sickening that a business in receipt of taxpayers’ cash has since been revealed to have links with a global drugs cartel and this will now presumably be looked at by HMRC.”
HMRC data showed Nero had been given taxpayer-funded handouts but didn’t say how much.
Rules mean past payments older than a year have been wiped from public record.
The funding was given from February until September when the program set up to stop workers losing their jobs finished.
An HMRC spokesman told us: “We designed anti-fraud measures into the COVID support schemes from the beginning, and we are taking tough action to tackle fraudulent and criminal behaviour.
“We have blocked tens of millions of pounds of claims being paid out in the first place and we are using the full range of our powers to recover incorrectly paid claims.
“There was no one at the Lanarkshire HQ of Nero when we visited last week.
The Morrisseys were also contacted by phone but did not respond.
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