‘Criminal cash’ confiscated

July 22, 2013

A Newry man and an accomplice convicted recently of smuggling over 9 million counterfeit cigarettes into Ireland have had €30,305 confiscated by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Niall Trainor (43) of Beamish Avenue, Newry and Stephen Watters (45) of Kilcurry, Dundalk, Co Louth each received a 30 month suspended sentence at Belfast Crown Court  last June for knowingly being concerned with the fraudulent evasion or attempted evasion of excise duty on the cigarettes.

They, and four other people, had been arrested and caught with 9.1 million counterfeit cigarettes in January 2011 on the Forkhill Road in Newry.  Trainor was later convicted after he denied the charges.  Watters pleaded guilty to this offence and a similar offence in relation to the evasion of duty on 100,000 cigarettes for which he received an 18 month suspended sentence.

Both men had been previously stopped in Dublin Airport on January 7, 2010 as they were about to board a connecting flight to Frankfurt which was to bring them on to Sofia in Bulgaria.

John Byrne BL, for the Irish Revenue Commissioners, read out an affidavit prepared by Custom and Excise Officer Marian Conneally in which she outlined that both men were travelling together and were stopped under routine profiling.

Trainor admitted that he had about €5,000 on his person and a further €5,000 in his suitcase which he claimed Watters had given him the previous night. It later transpired that he had €5,505 on him and €5,800 in his checked-in luggage.

Watters admitted he had €10,000 on his person and had a further €5,000 in his checked-in luggage.  An examination of the suitcase, which had been checked-in by Trainor, revealed €9,000 found in a wash bag and the pockets of a pair of jeans.

They claimed that the cash came from their own legitimate sources and they were planning to purchase a consignment of energy drinks from a Bulgarian company  which they named as Gold Street Distribution Ltd.  Watters said he also owed money to the same company and intended to repay it on arrival in Bulgaria.

Mr Byrne said revenue officials suspected that the cash represented the proceeds of crime or was intended for use in criminal conduct.  The suspicions were based on the fact that the men did not give the correct figure of cash they had with them that day, the manner in which they were transporting it and the fact that the cash was made up of bundles of high denominations of €500 and €100 notes.

Mr Byrne said the State was also not satisfied with the explanations given by the men when they were stopped by officials.

Judge Martin Nolan said it was clear from invoices provided to the court that Gold Star Distribution had a banking facility and the men would have had no problem transferring the cash electronically.  He said it was also “notable” that both men had recent convictions for smuggling cigarettes.

Judge Nolan said he had “no problem at all” in coming to the conclusion that although the cash might have come from legitimate sources it was intended for use in criminal activity.  He acceded to the State’s application and ordered that the cash be seized and forfeited.