Limerick car dealership used to launder drug money, court hears

Cab asks for court order to deem 111 seized cars and €20,000 in linked bank account as proceeds of crime

Criminal Assets Bureau carried out searches this morning Tuesday the 11th June 2019, at an address in the Coolock area of Dublin 17. The following items of note were seized : VW Golf GTI motorcar Ladies Rolex Watch Computer equipment Mobile phones Documents.

This search operation is part of an on-going investigation targeting the proceeds of crime. Today’s operation is significant in the context of the overall investigation. The investigation is primarily related to the purchase of property and expenditure on refurbishment and extensions. A second search is being conducted at a professional office in Dublin.

Pic Garda Facebook

A Limerick-based car dealership was used by people involved in criminality to launder significant amounts of money generated from the illegal drugs trade, the High Court has heard.

The Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) has asked the court for orders, under section 3 of the 1996 Proceeds of Crime Act, deeming 111 cars it seized from the motor sales business in March 2019 and €20,000 in a linked bank account to be the proceeds of crime.

Due to the depreciation of vehicles, the cars were auctioned on behalf of the bureau for some €820,000. The proceeds have remained frozen pending the outcome of Cab’s application.

The proceedings are against the company that operated the car sales business, Stephen Bawn Motors Ltd, trading as Bawn Motors, Old Ballysimon Road, Limerick, and Mike Nash, with an address in Newcastle West, Co Limerick.


They both oppose the application to have the proceeds of the vehicle sales deemed crime proceeds and deny Cab’s claims about the business, which operated out of a portacabin on a leased lot.

Seeking the orders Grainne O’Neill BL, for Cab, told the court Cab commenced an investigation in 2017. It is the bureau’s case that the company has been used by people with extensive links to local, national and international criminals to launder money generated by illegal drug dealing.

Money generated from drug dealing was passed through the car sales business, which began trading about seven years ago, in an attempt to make it seem like the funds were derived from a legitimate source of income, counsel said.

No proper books and records were kept, she said, adding that Cab does not accept explanations from people associated with the company about its operation.

It is Cab’s case that the funds used by the company to buy cars, many of which were purchased in the UK, were derived from the proceeds of drug dealing, she added. The company also engaged in other illegal activities including VAT fraud, she said.

Cab alleges Mr Nash, who also operates another car sales business and claims he owns more than 50 of the vehicles seized, was the person in charge of Stephen Bawn Motors. The business, Cab claims, was fronted by another individual.

Other individuals who the bureau alleges were involved in the running of Stephen Bawn Motors Ltd include John O’Donoghue from Rathkeale Co Limerick, who is currently serving a prison sentence for assault. He is alleged to be an associate of known criminals in the Limerick area, including alleged crime boss and convicted drug dealer Christy Keane, and the Kinahan organised crime gang.

The seizure of the cars was one of the biggest in Cab’s history.

In the same operation, officers raided two houses in Limerick, a garage in a town in Tipperary, an accountant’s office in Limerick City, and two solicitors’ offices in Co Limerick.

The hearing of Cab’s application, before Mr Justice Alexander Owens, resumes on Thursday.