Home acquired mostly with crime proceeds, High Court rules
Judge rules there is ‘cogent evidence’ Christy Russell had close links to serious criminals
The judge rejected claims that funding for the purchase of the house came from a tow truck business Christy Russell claimed to operate. He was also satisfied the income from such a business was not consistent with Mr Russell’s lifestyle, which included a Florida cruise and a €38,000 extension to the house. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times
The home of the wife of Christy Russell, a man described by a judge as having “extensive links” to people involved in the “upper levels of crime”, was acquired mostly with proceeds of crime, the High Court has ruled.
The wife and the couple’s two children cannot be named by court order, but Mr Russell can. The exact address of the house in Dublin also cannot be published, Mr Justice George Birmingham directed.
It was open to the media to be heard at a future date in relation to his order prohibiting the naming of the woman, which he had made to balance the competing interests in the case, he said.
In its proceedings, the Criminal Assets Bureau alleged Mr Russell and his wife have been the beneficial owners of the house, where the wife lived since 2000. Mr Russell did not participate in the case and his whereabouts is unknown, while his wife denied CAB’s claims.
While ruling the house was acquired mainly from proceeds of crime, the judge found the wife contributed a certain amount to the mortgage and upkeep of the household through her earnings as a casual hairdresser, and through child benefit payments.
In the interests of justice, it was appropriate she benefit to the extent of 12.5 per cent of the sale price if the property is sold by CAB in seven years, he directed.
He ruled there was “cogent evidence” Christy Russell had close and extensive links to people involved in the “upper levels of serious crime”.
Although Mr Russell had just one conviction in January 1992 for obstruction under the Misuse of Drugs Act, the “high level criminals” he associated with included Keith Maloney, Peyton Court, Rathcoole, Co Dublin, serving seven years for possession of €2.4 million worth of drugs, the judge said.
In December 2010, Mr Russell paid €17,300 for the Russell and Maloney families to go on a cruise to Florida, CAB told the court.
The wife had said she did not accept her husband was involved in crime and if he was, she was not aware of it, the judge noted.
The judge rejected claims that funding for the purchase of the house came from a tow truck business Mr Russell claimed to operate. He was also satisfied the income from such a business was not consistent with Mr Russell’s lifestyle, which included the Florida cruise and a €38,000 extension to the house.
Apart from his associates there was evidence linking Mr Russell directly to 40kg of cannabis seized by gardaí in June 2009, although he was never charged in connection with it, the judge said.
While a forensic accountant for the wife challenged the analysis of income figures by CAB, the judge said, in giving her the benefit of these arguments, there remained very significant unidentified sums considerably in excess of €700,000.
That significance was heightened because the judge did not accept Mr Russell’s business, CR Towing, ever existed. Tax returns submitted by Mr Russell for this business were false and designed to mislead those investigating his affairs, he added.
Dismissing the wife’s claim to have funded the mortgage from €175 a week earnings as a hairdresser and child benefit payments, he said there were no records produced of shampoo and hair products bought by her, or evidence from any of her customers.
Rejecting another claim by the wife of having been gifted the house by a man with whom she was in a relationship between 1998 and 2000, the judge said it was hard to see how that man could or would ever have been in a position “to act with such generosity”.
CAB had argued that man simply lent his name to the purchase of the house to provide cover for Mr Russell.