‘Not unusual for me to handle £500k’

Ted Cunningham painted himself as the victim in the witness box, writes Liam Heylin.

TED CUNNINGHAM spent six days in the witness box and name-checked Mother Teresa, Osama Bin Laden, Guantanamo Bay and the McBrearty family in Donegal.

DAY 1

Cunningham said he was frightened in the Bridewell where he and his wife, Cathy Armstrong, were being questioned separately in February 2005. “A rat in a corner will do anything to get out, that is all I wanted to do — get out of that hellhole… My attitude to anything is to say, yeah, yeah, yeah. I must have said, yeah, yeah, yeah, a hundred thousand times.”

“At that stage I had decided that all I was interested in was getting Cathy out, I didn’t care what I said, it wasn’t a chit-chat, there was banging on tables. If they asked me or told me Mother Teresa was my sister I would have agreed with that,” he said.

He added that Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Quilter told him: “If I did not co-operate I was in deep sh**.” He said Det Chief Supt Quilter told him he had a photograph of him with Phil Flynn and IRA people. “I knew that was not true, it was said to me that they knew who robbed the bank above in the North.”

“It was said to me I was only a pawn and that Phil Flynn was the main man, if I was to name Phil Flynn as the person behind it, he (Det Chief Supt Quilter) said they knew all of this, they basically only wanted me to rubberstamp it.

“I could see myself signing stuff like the McBreartys had to do above and they kicked the sh** out of them.”

Asked why he gave £250,000 to the Douglas family jewellers for safekeeping in Tullamore, Cunningham said: “I had no safe.”

Cunningham had claimed the money came from Bulgarians buying a sand pit.

He said in February 2005 he gave John Sheehan, a property developer in Ballincollig, Co Cork, £200,000 from the Bulgarian money as security for a loan that Mr Sheehan gave to Chesterton in the sum of €150,000.

DAY 2

“I would have been better off in Guantanamo Bay, it was as bad if not worse,” he said. “I tried to tell the truth about where I got the money from Bulgaria. If they had asked me if I had met Bin Laden I would have done my best to describe him and said, yes he was in Farran.

“I was never in the IRA, I had no dealings with anyone. I have been accused. I have been ridiculed, I have spent four years of things being written about me in the press. I have been accused in the media.

“I have been accused of successfully laundering £10m for the INLA. I never ever dealt with these type of people. I need to say it” he said.

DAY 3

Cunningham said two men drove from England in a four-wheel drive to deliver the £800,000 to the churchyard 100 yards from his home in October 2004.

He said he was in contact with his Bulgarian contact Georgi about the money as part of £4m this man had agreed to pay for a sand and gravel pit in Shinrone, Co Offaly.

“Did he introduce himself?” Mr O’Connell SC asked. Cunningham replied: “No.” Mr O’Connell asked: “Did he ask who you were?” Cunningham said: “Yes.” The senior counsel asked: “What did you say?” The witness replied: “Ted.” Mr O’Connell asked: “Did anyone ask for a receipt?” The accused replied: “No, but that is not unusual.”

Mr O’Connell responded to this answer: “What — that gentlemen from England would arrive in a four-wheel drive in a churchyard in Cork and give you a bag of Northern sterling, what do you mean it’s not unusual?”

Cunningham said: “Maybe for you but, in light of the business I was in, it was not unusual for me to handle £400,000 or £500,000 at a time. The sterling I was getting was not from two people I did not know I was getting if from people we were engaged with.”

Cunningham testified about receiving £3m from Bulgarian businessmen — £800,000 at Farran in October 2004, £200,000 at the Blarney Park Hotel in December 2004. The third delivery was on January 17 when an English man brought £500,000 to Tullamore. The fourth delivery of £500,000 was made at the Dunboyne Hotel in Navan, the fifth by the same Englishman on February 2 at Tullamore and the sixth on February 7 at Tullamore, the last two deliveries also being of £500,000.

DAY 4

He denied changing his story from telling detectives he received £2.3m from Bulgarian businessmen in one drop to telling the jury he received it in six different drops.

“I could not have said I received all the money (in one drop) because I did not receive all the money.”

He was cross-examined about receiving large amounts of cash in hold-all bags from men who made deliveries on behalf of a Bulgarian businessman.

Mr O’Connell asked if he had made “similar arrangements with men in jeeps with bags of money on dark nights in church yards?”

Cunningham replied: “I have gone to farmers, I have gone to publicans, turf-cutters, jewellers, a lot of people did not trust the banks and isn’t their words coming true.”

Mr O’Connell said with all of the deliveries of cash, from £200,000 to £800,000, the accused had no record of the deliveries in his diaries for 2004 and 2005. Cunningham said: “Down through the years normally I would write everything down on bits of paper and transfer them in to a diary.”

He later added that sometimes he would forget to transfer such notes to his diary.

DAY 5

“I got the money from the Bulgarians, how many times must I say it. (As for saying otherwise in the Bridewell) I was coerced, I was under duress, I was led like a pup to say this and say that,” Cunningham said.

Mr O’Connell said it must have been a coincidence that the Northern Bank was robbed and the gardaí found £3m at Cunningham’s home.

The senior counsel said: “You can repeat the mantra all you like, the state does not accept your explanation and regards it as a tissue of lies.”

Following a reference to Tom Hanlon, Sinn Féin councillor in Passage West, the memorandum of interview recorded the question as, “Is this the only man you gave sterling to?” Cunningham’s reply was “Yes”. Mr O’Connell described this as a lie.

Cunningham said yesterday: “I answered it in relation to the question put to me in relation to Tom Hanlon but I had given money to a number of other people but obviously that was not taken down.”

Mr O’Connell said what was written down was correct and that this video of questions and answers had already been played for the jury and could be played again.

DAY 6

Tom O’Connell SC said at the close of his cross-examination of the accused: “I have to put it to you, you are telling a load of lies about this alleged deal with Bulgarians and that to suggest that Bulgarians were delivering millions of sterling notes to you is an utter nonsense.”

Cunningham made no reply to this.

The prosecution senior counsel said Cunningham would have spoken up for himself if he had been mistreated in the Bridewell. Cunningham said his experience in the Bridewell was “the most horrifying and frightening experience of my life” and that to get out of that “hell” he would have said anything the gardaí wanted him to say.

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