A former Scotland youth team footballer who turned to serious organised crime has been jailed for seven years after being convicted of running a massive drugs-trafficking operation.
Paul MacDonald, 35, hid thousands of pounds in drugs money at safe houses in Glasgow and told accomplices in encrypted text messages he could make £1.9million a month from buying and selling cocaine.
In one message, he claimed he and co-accused Craig Balloch would “still get a million quid after bills are paid”.
Another message revealed MacDonald discussing buying and selling expensive watches and purchasing a £250,000 property in Spain.
MacDonald, who played for Hearts, was sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow after pleading guilty to being involved in serious organised crime.
Balloch, 30, of Rutherglen, was imprisoned for seven and a half years after he also admitted being involved in serious organised crime.
Sineidin Corrins, Deputy Procurator Fiscal for Specialist Casework at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), said:
“These two individuals were responsible for the supply of drugs on a huge scale.
“They failed in their attempts to conceal the money they made from their crimes.
“They are now serving lengthy prison sentences thanks to a successful COPFS prosecution and an extensive police operation to tackle and disrupt serious organised crime.
“I hope that these convictions and the sentence send a strong message to others involved in this kind of criminal behaviour and demonstrates the ability of police and prosecutors to investigate, prepare and prosecute serious and organised crime of this nature.
“We are targeting all people who threaten communities across Scotland, not only drug couriers but also those who direct their movements.
“The Crown will continue working with the police and other agencies as a member of Scotland’s Serious and Organised Crime Taskforce to ensure that these crimes are detected and those responsible prosecuted using all measures at our disposal.”
The court heard how Balloch persuaded one individual to allow her home to be used to store large amounts of cash as part payment of a debt the former footballer was owed.
When police officers searched the property in April 2020, they discovered £444,560 hidden in bags, envelopes and packages, while £146,750 was found at a second property.
But MacDonald and Balloch’s illegal scheme was thwarted after police decoded the encrypted messages and carried out searches at both men’s homes.
Both men will now be the subject of confiscation orders under proceeds of crime legislation.