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Former England youth football star Jamie Cassidy jailed for more than 13 years for drugs conspiracy

A former England youth football team player has been jailed for more than 13 years for his part in a huge drugs conspiracy.

Ex-Liverpool prodigy Jamie Cassidy, 46, was "drawn in" to crime by his older brother Jonathan Cassidy, 50, who styled himself as being like 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 took a leading role in an international drugs plot, along with a third man, money launderer Nasar Ahmed, 51.

The trio were involved in dealing 356kg of the drug, worth around £26m, with £10m in cash changing hands in the space of three months.

Manchester recorder Judge Nicholas Dean jailed Jamie Cassidy - who used to be part of the same team as Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen as a youth player - for 13 years and three months.

In 1996, the Liverpool side they represented won the FA Youth Cup, beating a West Ham team including Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard.

Cassidy broke into Liverpool's senior squad, but injuries meant he left Anfield without playing for the first team.

Paul Greeney KC, defending Cassidy, called him a "footballer of exceptional talent and promise".

He said: "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.

"He broke into Liverpool's first team, but two injuries then 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 importation of drugs in April and March 2020.

The two, along with Jamie Cassidy, who lived in Knowsley on Merseyside, also admitted conspiracy to supply drugs and conspiracy to transfer criminal property.

Judge Dean jailed Jonathan Cassidy and Ahmed for 21 years and nine months each.

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Earlier, Richard Wright KC, prosecuting, told the court that although Jamie Cassidy wasn't involved in importing the drugs, he still played a "significant role", by passing on instructions and acting on the direction of others to ensure operations went smoothly and the drugs were distributed to dealers.

But his older brother played a "leading role" in getting the drugs into the UK, as well as in 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.

Police seized close to £250,000 in two Asda bags when they arrested one of the gang's associates in a car in Liverpool.

The cocaine imported from the Netherlands was used to supply users in northwest England, Birmingham and Leeds.

Suspecting the encrypted EncroChat phone he used to communicate had been accessed by police, Jonathan Cassidy fled to Dubai in May 2020, where he looked into buying a villa with a budget of £2.3m, including a £22,000 bed.

Later, believing he was in the clear, he returned to the UK and was promptly arrested and charged.

Police found more than £24,000 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.