THE key statement from Ted Cunningham came at the Bridewell Garda Station on the second day he was in custody when he was described as blurting out: “Phil Flynn is the boss behind everything” and confirming the money was from the Northern Bank robbery.
However, before this off-tape interview he had claimed the money came from Bulgarians buying a sand pit. He later returned to this account when he gave evidence in court, but also used elements of the off-tape interview.
Instead of testifying that the Bulgarians brought all the money to Farran, he said they brought some of it there and he travelled for five further “drops” of money in Tullamore and Navan.
Cunningham requested to come off tape and talk to the head of the investigation, Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Quilter, who later described Cunningham as blurting out information, signing a rough transcript of the interview and initialling every page.
This off-tape interview is what the prosecution regards as Cunningham’s honest account of what happened. He said he was in phone contact with Catherine Nelson, Phil Flynn’s assistant, on a daily basis and used a code on the phone to indicate when he had picked up money. The code was: “The postman came.”
Det Chief Supt Quilter said at one stage Cunningham breathed a sigh, appeared to hesitate and said: “Look, Phil Flynn is the boss behind everything, Catherine is the contact… Phil and Catherine were organising everything. I raised concerns with Phil that the money was from the Northern Bank robbery.
“He said he would be in contact. I told him I could not handle £5 million. And eventually agreed on 5. I later told him I might move 10 or 11.”
Asked off-camera about the notes, the accused said: “When I opened the bag I saw Northern sterling, I was not a fool. When I saw the Northern notes I knew what it was, I suspected it was from the Northern Bank job.”
In a second off-camera interview he said: “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.”
Det Chief Supt Quilter said Cunningham told them that a fourth collection of money consisted of four sports bags of cash and that this particular consignment was “bad money”.
Det Chief Supt Quilter explained that this was the term being used by Cunningham for money printed by the Northern Bank — the consecutive serial numbers of which were published by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
“He gave Tom Hanlon [former Sinn Féin councillor in Passage West] the bulk of these sports bags — the bad money, the Northern Bank notes. He had given this to Hanlon last week and had not seen him since he put them into Dunnes bags. Tom Hanlon was in the basement counting money, using gloves,” said Det Chief Supt Quilter.
He said Cunningham indicated that £3.5m of the money was “good” in that it was sterling but not printed by the Northern Bank and £1.5m was “bad”.
Days earlier when gardaí were searching his basement at 4am on February 17 he said: “That money is not from the Northern Bank robbery.” Asked why he’d say that, Cunningham said: “As soon as I saw it on the telly I knew I had the money down there in the basement. It is in my possession at the moment. When the sale of the sandpit goes through it will be mine — £2.3m.”
When the video cameras started running for Cunningham’s formal interviews in the Bridewell on February 17, 2005, the accused said a man dropped six bags containing £2.3m at a churchyard across from his house and then drove off without getting a receipt.
Earlier in the interview, he said six bags were delivered to the yard of the church across the road from the house by a man he did not know who was driving a dark 4x4 and that this delivery of cash had been arranged with a number of Bulgarians purchasing a sand and gravel pit from him in Co Offaly.
The following day was the day of the off-camera interview in which admissions were made. It was followed by more on-camera interviews, including one with the Criminal Assets Bureau when Ted Cunningham told them that he knew £4.9m at his home in Cork was from the Northern Bank robbery in Belfast.
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