A financial adviser was jailed for 10 years today for laundering cash from the notorious Northern Bank robbery.
Ted Cunningham was convicted of possessing more than £3m (€3.32m) from the infamous heist, which has been blamed on the IRA.
The 60-year-old, from Farran in Co Cork, was also found guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court of nine counts linked to a dirty money racket which moved cash from Belfast to Cork.
His son Timothy Cunningham was given a three-year suspended sentence after he admitted knowing the cash was from the December 2004 robbery at the Northern Bank cash centre in Belfast.
Judge Con Murphy praised the bravery of Cunningham Jnr for pleading guilty early in the trial, in defiance of his father who used him as a pawn in the laundering of money from the Northern Bank robbery of December 2004.
Ted Cunningham insisted on his innocence throughout the trial and Judge Murphy said the accused attributed admissions he made to gardaí to sleeplessness, illness, threats or inducements.
Superintendent John Healy said the bank robbery was “almost certainly carried out by the IRA.” And defence senior counsel, Ciarán O’Loughlin, said Ted Cunningham had no part in the robbery but that in respect of laundering the proceeds “he was in effect used by the IRA.”
Supt. Healy reminded Judge Con Murphy of the circumstances of the Northern Bank robbery of December 2004. Assistant manager of the Northern Bank cash centre in Belfast, Kevin McMullan, was at home on the night of December 19, 2004 with his wife, Karen.
On the pretext of being police the bank robbers got into the house. Mrs McMullan was blindfolded and taken away from the house as her husband was told that if he didn’t comply fully or if anything went wrong his wife would be killed.
In this way the highly planned robbery succeeded and a major investigation was initiated. The part initially played by the gardai was the monitoring of movements of known members of the IRA leading to 44 searches, including one at the home of Ted Cunningham where over £3m (€3.32m) from the bank was found in a cupboard in his basement.
Supt. Healy said gardai believe that Cunningham is not and was not in the IRA. Questioned in the Bridewell he gave false accounts of receiving the Northern sterling from Bulgarians buying a sand pit in Tullamore.
“When granted an off-camera interview he outlined how he got four tranches of cash in four deliveries from the same unknown man in a Northern-registered car (on different dates in Tullamore and Navan). In total he asserted he received £4.9m (€5.4m)” the superintendent said.
He quoted the accused telling them in that interview, “I came up with the idea to pretend I had a buyer for the pit. In effect I was laundering the money from the Northern Bank by buying the pit in a bogey Bulgarian company name.”
Supt. Healy said, “He did retract statements made off-camera and he made serious allegations about members of An Garda Siochana involved in that process.” Cunningham said the Bridewell was worse than Guantanamo Bay.
Cunningham jnr. who was given a three-year suspended sentence for his part in the laundering of the £3m (€3.32m), “was merely a pawn in this operation at the behest of his father,” defence senior counsel Tom Creed said, adding that the delay in pleading guilty (the third week of the trial) was due to his father’s influence. Supt. Healy agreed that the father influenced the son.