End of road for opera lover who ultimately failed to convince jury

Cunningham spent most of last decade in dispute with organs of the State

Ted Cunningham of Woodbine Lodge, Farran, Co Cork  at Cork Circuit Criminal Court after he pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Cork Courts Limited

Ted Cunningham of Woodbine Lodge, Farran, Co Cork at Cork Circuit Criminal Court after he pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Cork Courts Limited

Fri, Feb 28, 2014, 01:00

Yesterday’s handing down of a five-year suspended sentence to Ted Cunningham brings to a close one instalment in the life of the opera-lover who has spent the best part of the last decade locked in dispute with various organs of the State.

Ever since he was arrested and questioned in February 2005 by gardaí investigating the laundering of some £26.5 million stolen from the Northern Bank by the IRA in December 2004, Cunningham has vehemently protested his innocence.

All through his first trial in February and March 2009, Cunningham insisted some £2.3 million found at his home in Farran, mid-Cork, was given to him by Bulgarian businessmen seeking to purchase a sand and gravel pit at Shinrone, Co Offaly.

However, the explanation failed to convince the jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court and he was convicted of all 10 counts following a 45-day trial and sentenced to 10 years in jail by the late Judge Con Murphy in April 2009.

Cunningham lodged an appeal and it had not yet been heard when Moroccan-born Ali Damache won a Supreme Court challenge in February 2012 when the court ruled that a section 29 warrant issued by a senior garda was unconstitutional.

The Court of Criminal Appeal set aside Cunningham’s 2009 conviction and ordered a retrial on nine counts and ruled he could not be retried on the 10th charge of laundering £2.3 million as the cash and interviews he gave after arrest stemmed from a defective warrant.

Cunningham pleaded not guilty to all nine charges when arraigned before a jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on February 13th last only for him to change his plea after Judge Seán Ó Donnabhain ruled against him regarding certain evidence.

He was rearraigned on two charges amended to say he was reckless as opposed to knowing the money was the proceeds of the Northern Bank raid and he pleaded guilty. It was the first time in a decade of protesting his innocence that Cunningham admitted money laundering.

Throughout his incarceration and after his release in 2012, Cunningham continued to protest his innocence, making a complaint in 2012 to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission only for the commission to rule that the complaint fell outside the requisite six-month period.

The Irish Times understands he is determined to pursue an action to the European Court of Human Rights over being forced to slop out while detained in Cork Prison.

Last December, Cunningham lodged papers with the High Court against the Garda for what he says was his wrongful arrest for IRA membership and false imprisonment in 2009. The Irish Times understands Cunningham is equally determined, regardless of his guilty plea to money laundering offences, to pursue that action.

Last year, Cunningham was invited by Independent TD Luke Ming Flanagan to attend the Dáil as part of a campaign against “Garda corruption” and it is understood Cunningham is determined to remain active in that campaign.

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