A UK lotto millionaire is facing trial accused of defilement of an under-age teenage girl from Ireland who he met through an internet chat-room.
The British man was arrested in Dublin by gardai at the weekend after he travelled to Ireland by ferry to speak to the teen’s mother about his relationship with her daughter.
The wealthy businessman appeared before Judge Fiona Lydon at Dublin District Court charged with four counts of engaging in a sexual act with a child under the age of 17 years on dates in 2016 and this year.
Bail with a range of strict conditions was set at €200,000 and he was remanded in custody to appear again in court on Friday.
The alleged offences are under Section Three of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006, which can carry jail terms of up to five years.
Objecting to bail, Garda Stephen Faulkner said it was alleged the man frequently travelled over from the UK by ferry to meet the girl for sex and gardai have recovered videos of sexual activity from the defendant’s phone.
He said a complaint was made by the teen’s mother in January that her daughter, who is in her mid-teens, and the man were in a sexual relationship.
The alleged injured party outlined that she met him through a named online chat-room in 2015, the bail hearing was told. Garda Faulkner said the girl was subscribed to the under-17s category of the website. It was alleged she engaged in conversation with the accused.
It was alleged they exchanged details and communicated through Snapchat and WhatsApp.
Garda Faulkner told the bail hearing it was alleged the man first came to Ireland to meet her last year.
It was alleged they stayed in a hotel in Dublin and had sexual intercourse. She was aged 15 at the time and had told the accused, the court heard.
Garda Faulkner alleged that this did not discourage the man’s advancements and he came back by ferry every four to six weeks.
It is alleged the relationship was unearthed by the girl’s mother who alerted gardai and an investigation began. CCTV evidence allegedly shows the girl in his company at a number of locations including Dublin Zoo and coming and going from a named Dublin city-centre hotel, the court was told.
Gardai identified phone messenger WhatsApp as the main point of contact and almost 3,000 screen-shots pictures have been taken of their conversations, the court heard.
The court was also told that gardai allegedly recovered “images and videos of sexual activity taking place” and “some recording during the course of sexual activity”.
Last year he bought her a designer ring worth €2,500 telling the shop assistant it was an engagement ring, the court heard. It is now in possession of gardai, Judge Lydon was also told.
Gardai obtained financial accounts of the accused through mutual assistance of UK authorities, Garda Faulkner said, adding that, “the accused is a man of considerable wealth”.
His bank accounts showed he won a substantial amount in the UK lotto, the garda said.
Analysis of his phone was conducted allegedly showing 69 images and five videos of the accused and the girl, the court was told. One image of the girl in her school uniform was taken when she was aged 15, it was alleged.
It was alleged he was aware of the girl’s age before engaging in sexual activity with her, the Garda said.
The Garda believed he would evade trial if granted bail and he had a considerable amount of resources through his windfall, the court was told.
It was also feared he would interfere with witnesses, Garda Faulkner said. Since their last alleged meeting the man has been in contact with the schoolgirl and her family. It was alleged that he travelled to Ireland to confront her mother to discuss his feelings for her daughter.
The man, who was dressed in a grey suit, did not address the court.
Garda Faulkner agreed with defence counsel Seamus Clarke that directions from the Director of Public Prosecutions need to be obtained. He also agreed it is likely the case will be sent forward to the circuit court and there was a lot of technical evidence.
He said he could not dispute the defence suggestions that the trial may not be held until 2019.
The defence told the court the man did not have ties to Ireland but submitted that he could live here while on bail, however, the garda said that was not satisfactory.
Mr Clarke said it looked like the man had believed he was in a relationship with the girl.
Pleading for bail he said his client would agree not to leave the jurisdiction.
Judge Fiona Lydon set bail in the man’s own bond of €100,000 which has to be lodged. She also said he needed to have two independent sureties, each in the sums of €50,000, approved by the court.
He was remanded in custody with consent to bail to appear at Cloverhill District Court on Friday.
In the event that bail is taken up he cannot have any contact directly or indirectly with the girl or her family, the judge ordered.
The other conditions of bail state he has to reside at an address in Ireland agreed by gardai, sign on twice daily at his local garda station from 9am until 12pm and 5pm until 8pm; maintain a 11pm to 8am curfew at his address and be available to gardai calling to his residence during those hours; surrender his passport and not apply for other travel documents; have a mobile phone which must be switched on 24 hours a day and he has to stay out of certain areas.