An officer who spearheaded a Criminal Assets Bureau investigation into assets of the Kinahan crime gang has told a High Court jury a file provided to CAB by solicitor Gerald Kean lead to the seizure of a Dublin man's house as the proceeds of crime.
Det Sgt Tom Anderson was giving evidence in the continuing action by Mr Kean alleging he was defamed in an article published in the Irish Daily Star on March 11, 2016, headlined 'Kean Caught Up in CAB Probe'.
Independent Star Ltd denies defamation and has pleaded fair and reasonable publication for the purpose of discussion of a subject of public interest in the public benefit.
Evidence has concluded and the jury will hear closing addresses tomorrow.
Det Sgt Anderson, now with the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, told Rossa Fanning SC, for the Star, he had sworn "informations" in March 2016 supporting CAB's District Court application for warrants to search 18 premises on March 9, 2016, including Mr Kean's offices, as part of its investigation into the Kinahan gang's finances.
CAB was aware Mr Kean's office had acted for a Dublin man, Sean McGovern, in relation to the purchase of a house at Kildare Road, Crumlin, and it wanted to establish where the money for that purchase came from.
Mr Kean's office provided the relevant file and documents and CAB later established the €150,000 paid by Mr McGovern for the house came from a Mauritian trust fund, he said.
When asked about that, and about the source of €247,000 funds spent on renovating the house, Mr McGovern "had no answer" and had sworn he was of limited means.
The High Court later ruled the house was bought with the proceeds of crime and CAB got possession of the house.
In cross-examination by Jim O'Callaghan SC, for Mr Kean, Det Sgt Anderson agreed much of CAB's work must be done confidentially for reasons including to prevent loss of assets, that a solicitor cannot provide a client’s file without a warrant or court order and that Mr Kean was not among those being investigated by CAB when it got the March 2016 warrants.
He said seeking information from various professionals is “bread and butter stuff” for CAB, 153 such warrants were obtained by CAB in 2016 and, from a CAB perspective, there was "nothing unusual" in the March 2016 events.
He was not overly concerned about the Star article and did not know the source of the information for it.
A probe by the Garda Ombudsman into a complaint by Mr Kean over the article found no wrongdoing by him or any of his Garda colleagues.
The jury also heard evidence from two CAB officers who went to Mr Kean's office with a search warrant on March 9, 2016.
Det Garda Tracey Robinson said she introduced herself to Mr Kean as a Garda and a CAB officer, said they were interested in Sean McGovern whom Mr Kean's office had done conveyancing work for concerning purchase of a property at Kildare Road, Crumlin, and showed him the search warrant.
Mr Kean did not recognise the name or address but contacted a colleague, Sharyn Coghlan, who recognised the name and went seeking the information.
Det Garda Robinson said Mr Kean dominated the conversation and she had not told him Mr McGovern had no convictions and was shot in the Regency Hotel or she had seen documents in Mr McGovern's house indicating the Kean firm acted in the conveyancing. They were in the office about 30 minutes.
Det Garda Andy O'Keeffe, now retired, said the visit was a "formal" event. He was exhibits officer and got a copy of the client ledger concerning the conveyancing transaction and also got the file, which had to be retrieved from storage, the next day.
He received a call on March 12 from Mr Kean, who seemed very upset, about the article but did not know what he was talking about. He had not supplied information to anyone.
He told Mr O'Callaghan he had attended solicitors offices many times as a CAB officer and none of those visits ended up on the front page of a national newspaper. He considered more was made of the article by Mr Kean than by others and the "overall trend" of it "did not cause me great concern".
Earlier, Paul O'Higgins SC, also for Mr Kean, concluded his cross-examination of Michael O'Toole, who wrote the article.
Mr O’Toole said Mr Kean is a significant public figure and the article was a fair and reasonable publication on a matter of public interest which was that Mr Kean had been caught up in the CAB operation.
He had no malice against Mr Kean, did not consider the article was “sensationalised” or that running it across three pages with photos of Mr Kean was excessive. He had reported facts, he said.