Ice-cream van a drug cash front, court told

AN ICE-CREAM van which travelled to festivals around the country was used to launder drug money, Limerick District Court heard yesterday.

Brian Collopy, whose house in Fedamore was confiscated by the Criminal Assets Bureau and sold in 2005 for €225,000 at public auction, stated more than €11,000 found earlier this month during a Garda raid belonged to his wife and their son.

Gardaí sought an order from Judge Eamonn O’Brien to retain the money for up to three months.

The court heard on May that raids were carried out as part of Operation Platinum when up to 150 premises in Limerick were visited.

Gardaí were satisfied the money found in the home of Maria Collopy at Ballysimon was the proceeds of drug dealing and that her ice-cream business was used to launder the money.

Mr Collopy said he had no interest in the money as it belonged to his wife and their son.

Ms Collopy said the money belonged to her and her son. She had taken out €5,000 in cash to pay a builder who was doing work at the time on her house. Another €3,500 belonged to her house and a further €2,700 was the proceeds of her ice-cream business at the city’s Riverfest festival.

A sum of €980 was to send her daughter to Lourdes.

Ms Collopy said she needed the money back to buy supplies for her ice-cream van and for a fruit stall she has at the Saturday market in Limerick.

Her husband had nothing to do with her ice-cream business, she said.

She said: “I need a float of money to buy in stock and sell it. I buy in the ice-cream in bulk.”

While she did not have figures to hand on her turnover, she had an accountant who had all her financial details, the court heard.

Insp Pat Connolly put it to her that if gardaí could be satisfied, within the three-month period in which they were seeking to hold on to the money, that it was rightfully hers it would be returned.

Insp Connolly: “Do you think in the business and the amounts of money you are dealing in, you should be dealing in cheques, so that everything can be satisfied?”

Ms Collopy: “There was a reason for the money. It was after the Riverfest and I wanted to pay for some of the works.”

Insp Connolly said if they can be satisfied as to the ownership of the cash, they will come back to the court as soon as possible.

Judge O’Brien gave the gardaí an order to hold the money for a three-month period.

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