Ex-Hearts player Paul MacDonald jailed over drugs and dirty money operation

A former footballer embroiled in a huge drugs and dirty money operation has been jailed for seven years.

Paul MacDonald, who previously played for Hearts and represented Scotland at youth level, hid thousands of pounds in drugs money at safe houses in Glasgow and boasted to accomplices how he could make £1.9m a month from buying and selling cocaine.

In one encrypted text message, the 35-year-old claimed both he and co-accused Craig Balloch, 30, would "still get a million quid after bills are paid".

Another message revealed MacDonald discussed buying and selling expensive watches and purchasing a £250,000 property in Spain.

A court was told that Balloch persuaded one individual to allow her home to be used to store large amounts of cash as part payment of a debt MacDonald was owed.

When police officers searched the property in April 2020, they discovered £444,560 hidden in bags, envelopes and packages. A total of £146,750 was found at a second property.

The two men were snared after detectives decoded the encrypted text messages and carried out searches at their homes.

Both MacDonald and Balloch were sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow on Tuesday after previously pleading guilty to being involved in serious organised crime.

Balloch, of Rutherglen in South Lanarkshire, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years.

The pair will now be the subject of confiscation orders under proceeds of crime legislation.

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Following the court case, 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."