Laois gardaí have been given two months to investigate whether or not €10,000 in cash seized from an unemployed man is the proceeds of crime.
At last week's sitting of Portlaoise District Court, the State made an application under the Proceeds of Crime Act against Michael O’Connor (19), Riverview, Scarawalsh, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford.
Detective Garda JP O’Brien gave evidence that on May 12 this year, at a location in Borris in Ossory, he seized and detained cash to the value of €10,100 which was under the control of Mr O’Connor.
He said he had reasonable grounds to suspect the money was the proceeds of crime.
Det O’Brien told the court that when he stopped Mr O’Connor, Mr O'Connor said he would like to seek legal advice.
The court heard that Mr O’Connor is not employed and is on social welfare. Det O’Brien said that on the morning of the court, Mr O’Connor had told him the money was from the sale of a car.
Det O’Brien requested three months to investigate the matter.
Solicitor, Mr Barry Fitzgerald put it to Det O’Brien that Mr O’Connor would say he indicated when stopped that the money was from the sale of a car, but Det O’Brien refuted this, saying Mr O’Connor had told him he was travelling from Limerick to Dublin to buy a vehicle.
The detective also confirmed that Mr O’Connor had been stopped at a national checkpoint on the motorway and he had no previous convictions.
“I want to try and find the true origin of the money,” said Det O’Brien.
Mr Fitzgerald said Mr O’Connor had sold a car to his aunt, who was present in court. He said she had a document showing the withdrawal of the money.
Det O’Brien restated that he needed time to investigate.
“I have my suspicions,” said Det O’Brien.
Mr Fitzgerald said his client had a constitutional right to his own property and there was nothing to support the detective’s view that criminality was involved.
Mr O’Connor took to the witness box to say he had sold a car to his aunt. In response to a question from the State, he said the vehicle had originally been bought using money he obtained from selling horses.
Judge Catherine Staines remarked they must have been very good horses, to which Mr O’Connor replied they were piebald ponies.
Det O’Brien asked him where he had got the money from to buy the jeep he was driving when stopped by gardaí. The witness replied that he had borrowed the money from his uncle and had to pay it back.
Judge Staines said this was the first that Det O’Brien had heard of the aunt’s involvement, so he was entitled to investigate.
Mr Fitzgerald said that the legislation under which the State was making the application related to the import or export of money to the State, but there was no suggestion that the money had been imported, so the application was futile.
To this, Sgt JJ Kirby said that the State was still trying to establish where the money had come from.
In ruling, Judge Staines said that based on the evidence she did believe there was a valid suspicion and granted the order, allowing the State two months to investigate.