A PORTLAOISE man in jail for running a €1.1million cocaine factory whose finances are being investigated by the State has told the Circuit Court that numerous lodgements to his bank accounts over a period of almost two years were due to him carrying out carpentry jobs for cash.
John Troy (37) was one of three men convicted of running the drugs factory at Troy’s property in Ballyknocken in 2005. When gardaí raided the house they discovered around six kilos of cocaine, which the men were in the process of cutting with mixing agent to turn into ten kilos for sale. Paraphernalia including mixers, bowls, weighing scales and bags were also found on the premises. It was estimated that the drugs had a street value of €1.162million.
In March 2008, Troy was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Padriag Lewis, of Rossvale Court in Portlaoise, was also sentenced to 15 years, while Gerard Daly, Woodgrove, Ballyfin Road, Portlaoise, was given a ten-year sentence which was later reduced to six years with four suspended.
The State have now applied for a confiscation order against Troy and Lewis and have begun an investigation of their finances, as it is believed they have benefited from drug trafficking. At the recent Circuit Court in Portlaoise, presided over by Judge Gerard Griffen, State prosecutor, Mr Will Fennelly said that Troy and Lewis were the principal figures in the operation and had gone 50/50 on the purchase of the uncut cocaine, at a total cost of €114,000.
Mr Fennelly said that Troy had displayed “no signs of financial need” in his life, and while he had been an occasional drug user he had not been an addict. Mr Fennelly told the court that Troy had withdrawn €13,880 from an Ulster Bank account in 2004, €10,000 of which Troy claimed was to pay an employee of his carpentry business. In 2005, Troy took on two more employees and sometimes got cash for carpentry jobs, which Mr Fennelly said accounted for some of his undeclared earnings.
Mr Fennelly read out a list of cash and cheque lodgements made to Troy’s account between December 2004 and June 2005, with amounts ranging from €1,000 up to almost €9,000. Troy had hire purchase payments for vehicles and his mortgage repayments during the same time.
Evidence for the State was given by Ms Toni Massey, an accountant working with the The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. Ms Massey said that Troy claimed to be a self employed carpenter with “a modest income” who had earned just €55,000 over three years. During this period, Troy was approved for a loan of €150,000 to build a house, but he only drew down €90,000 of this. Troy claimed that he had been able to do work on the house worth €52,000 for a cost of just €12,000, as he had received free assistance from his family. Ms Massey said that Troy had provided €12,750 for this work, but there were no withdrawals for this amount from Troy’s account.
Ms Massey said that the value of Troy’s house was hard to determine as construction had not been completed. The garda estimate was €230,000, but Troy estimated the house at €125,000 and the site at €70,000. Troy claims that he owes money to his parents if the house is ever sold, but Ms Massey said there was no documentation to prove this.
Ms Massey said that a certificate was submitted along with Troy’s loan application from his accountant, but the contents of the certificate contradict what Troy submitted to the Inland Revenue.
“The certificate is false,” said Ms Massey, adding that she was unable to reconcile Troy’s tax returns to the information given.
Troy’s accounts were frozen following his arrest in 2005, meaning there are no banking records for that period. Ms Massey said it was hard for her to prove or disprove his activity after that as he had been “working out of a box” of cash during this time.
“I don’t know how he did his returns for 2006, but the Revenue has accepted it,” she said.
Ms Massey explained that in her investigation she had relied on withdrawal dockets from the banks, but said: “I have no documentary evidence that the money was spent on the things he said it was spent on.”
Ms Massey said that Troy made more than 40 lodgements to an Ulster Bank account over 17 months totalling €56,247, although the bulk of these lodgements had been accounted for.
Ms Massey pointed out that Troy had to pay €57,000 to purchase the uncut cocaine and there were no bank withdrawals to match this figure. She said there was a lot of cash circulating through his affairs with no documentation and she could not say how he had paid his day to day bills. Taking into account his mortgage, vehicles payments and pension, Troy had spent over €26,000 more than he had declared and this was before factoring in such costs as bills, holidays, clothes and socialising.
“I don’t know where he got the money,” Ms Massey said.
Defence for Troy was Mr Hugo Hynds SC. Mr Hynds said that Ms Massey’s assumption that Troy had spent over €26,000 more than he earned was based on what Troy had declared to the Revenue. Mr Hynds said that 2005 was “a hectic time in the building trade”, with many small time jobs being paid in cash. Mr Hynds suggested that, for someone working as a self-employed carpenter and making bank lodgements, it was not unreasonable to assume that the money in their account was their earnings.
“You say he must have spent €26,000 beyond what he earned, based on the Revenue figures. But a better indication of his earnings would be his bank accounts,” said Mr Hynds.
Mr Hynds said that a more accurate figure for his client’s earnings over the three years was €138,189, which, after outgoings, left Troy a net surplus of €58,638.
Ms Massey said she did not agree with Mr Hynds, as he had not taken into account all of Troy’s debts.
Mr Hynds went on to say that Troy had an agreement with his parents to give them €150,000 if he ever sold his house. Mr Hynds said that his client had a number of accounts, but he had not been operating them all at the same time.
“I have no issue with him having a number of accounts,” said Ms Massey.
“Do you have any issue with the way he operated his accounts?” asked Mr Hynds.
“If I was his accountant, yes,” replied Ms Massey. “He mixed business and personal and he didn’t have receipts for everything. There was too much cash going through.”
Ms Massey also said there was no explanation for where Troy had got the money to buy the uncut cocaine.
“His half was €57,000, but nowhere in his accounts does he go in and withdraw this,” said Ms Massey.
“He says he was going to pay for the drugs afterwards,” said Mr Hynds.
Mr Hynds also said there was nothing unusual about cash lodgements suddenly appearing in Troy’s account whenever he went overdrawn.
“We would all do that, he’s a working man,” said Mr Hynds.
“But only on small jobs would you get cash,” replied Ms Massey. “Some of these amounts were too big, there was one for €10,000.”
“There are alternative explanations... Had he not been involved in drugs, there might be nothing unusual about this,” said Mr Hynds.
The court sitting then finished, with Ms Massey still under cross-examination. The matter has now gone back to April 23.