10 February 2006

DPP to get file on Cork moneylaundering inquiry

Irish Times

10 February 2006

Gardaí will send a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions next week following their investigation into the alleged laundering of almost £5 million which they believe was part of the £26.5 million stolen in the Northern Bank raid in December 2004, writes Barry Roche, Southern Correspondent.

According to Garda sources, the file arising out of Operation Phoenix is virtually complete and will be forwarded to the DPP next week for a decision on what charges are to follow as a result of an intensive 12-month-long investigation.

The detailed file comprises a lengthy covering report of more than 100 pages as well as almost 200 Garda statements and a further 200 civilian statements in what is believed to be one of the most exhaustive investigations conducted by An Garda Síochána.

Up to 100 gardaí, including many from the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Special Detective Unit, Crime and Security, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Garda Computer Analysis Unit were involved in the operation at various stages.

The lengthy investigation also involved forensic experts from the Garda Technical Bureau as well as local officers from Cork city, Cork west divisions as well as local officers in other parts of the country who were involved in follow-up operations to the initial raids.

According to Garda sources, the extensive file is likely to receive lengthy consideration by the DPP and could lead to a number of people being charged with both membership of an illegal organisation and with money-laundering offences.

Garda sources say they are hopeful that the file will lead to charges being brought for money laundering but point out that for such charges to be successful, a clear link must be made with the original offence, namely the Northern Bank raid.

Following the case of a 41-year-old man convicted in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in 1999 of money-laundering, the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled in 2002 that the State must clearly prove beyond reasonable doubt that the money at issue in such cases is the proceeds of crime.

Details of the investigation first came to light on February 17th, 2005 when officers from Cab, backed up by local detectives, raided the home of a financial adviser in Farran, Co Cork, and recovered £2.4 million which they believe are proceeds of the Northern Bank raid.

Gardaí believe that the £2.4 million seized in Farran was part of a £4.9 million share of the Northern Bank raid proceeds sent to Cork by the Provisional IRA for laundering through a series of schemes operated on its behalf and for its benefit.

Officers believe that the financial adviser had already dispersed about £1 million through a variety of outlets prior to the Garda raid, including an estimated £230,000 to a well-known republican activist living in the Cork Harbour area.

This republican had also collected a further £1.5 million from the financial adviser for further dispersal but when news of the Garda raid in Farran broke at around lunch-hour on February 17th, 2005, this activist gave the money to another man for safe-keeping.

Gardaí estimate they have recovered or located all but approximately £200,000 of the £3.4 million that is recoverable.

During the investigation 11 people were arrested.

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