Thirty-nine bundles of cash totalling around €380,000 fell out of the leg of a pool table during the garda search of a highly secured house in Crookstown, Co Cork.
Yesterday the owner was described as the quarter-master minding cash for an international crime gang.
Terence O’Shea, 46, from Aherlamore, Aherla, Crookstown, Co Cork, was sentenced to four years with half of it suspended yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
A few thousand in €50 notes was found in a make-up case and in a Roses tin in the accused’s bedroom. Garda sniffer dog, Snipe, then alerted officers to the leg of a pool table in the house. It was taken apart and bundles of cash fell from a secret cabinet incorporated into a leg.
Inspector Fergal Foley said that as an officer dealing with international drug trafficking he was aware of an international gang mainly from Cork city based in Spain and Holland involved in the importation of illegal drugs into Ireland and other countries.
Insp Foley became aware that the late Valerie O’Shea, wife of Terence O’Shea, was related to a person in this gang. A warrant was obtained to search O’Shea’s home. “On viewing the house it has security gates, dogs and CCTV. On further enquiries they had a lifestyle way in excess of a legitimate income… €70,000 was spent on flights and holidays in two years. I was of the belief that Mr O’Shea may be involved in a financial (capacity) supporting an organised crime gang.
“On the day we entered the house we met Mr O’Shea and his late wife. In a bedside locker of Mr O’Shea we found 35 blank, forged driving licences. Underneath the bed in a make-up box and in a Roses tin €4,500 in €50 notes were found.
“The garda dog, Snipe, detected something contained in the pool table. Gardaí started to dismantle the pool table. A false cabinet was found in the leg of the pool table. Out of that fell 39 bundles of cash amounting to €383,890,” Insp Foley said.
He pleaded guilty to the sole count that on April 2, 2011 at Aherlamore he engaged in handling or processing property that was the proceeds of criminal conduct, namely €383,890, knowing or being reckless as to whether it was the proceeds of criminal conduct.
The charge was brought under the Criminal Justice (money-laundering and terrorist financing) Act 2010.
Insp Foley said it was not believed by gardaí that the accused had any involvement in drugs transactions or any such criminal activity. “I have no evidence of him having distributed drugs. I believe he was the quartermaster responsible for the cash.
Defence senior counsel Ciarán O’Loughlin said Terence O’Shea and his wife were in serious financial difficulty from 2009 as a result of a €400,000 re-mortgaging of their home to fund a property investment in Bulgaria which failed totally, as did a children’s clothing shop operating by Valerie O’Shea. Mr O’Loughlin SC said, “she took her own life not long after these events”.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said he saw the accused as being a man without any previous convictions. Mr O’Loughlin said the defendant had not contested High Court proceedings by the state in respect of the seizure of the money found at his home.
In terms of sentencing Mr O’Loughlin suggested that this case represented one tenth of a case in Cork several years ago related to the handling of proceeds of the Northern Bank robbery, adding, “The Court of Criminal Appeal deal in relativities and this case pales almost into insignificance.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said: “€380,000 is a lot of money in Aherla … €380,000 in any man’s language is a very significant amount of money. No doubt he was fully involved. He was fully aware it was from an illegal source.”