Accused tells court how he got £2.3m in graveyard

 

FINANCIAL ADVISER Ted Cunningham (60), who is on trial for money-laundering, told gardaí he never gave a receipt to anyone for £2.3 million he collected from the churchyard opposite his home.

He told gardaí the cash was dropped off there as part of a deal with some Bulgarians to buy a sand and gravel pit.

Yesterday was the 16th day of the trial and the jury of seven men and five women saw and heard the videotape of Mr Cunningham being interviewed by Det Sgt Eileen Foster and Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald following his arrest on February 17th, 2005, on suspicion of being a member of the IRA.

Mr Cunningham told gardaí during an interview at the Bridewell Garda station in Cork that he received a phone call in late September or early October 2004 telling him money would be delivered to the churchyard at about 6pm the following evening.

Mr Cunningham told gardaí he was keeping an eye on the churchyard and he saw a dark-coloured SUV pull up but did not see who was driving it. He said when he went across the road to the churchyard, he found six bags containing the cash.

The money was part-payment in a £5 million transaction involving a group of Bulgarians he had met in Sofia who wanted to buy a sand and gravel pit he owned with a number of other people at Shinrone, Co Offaly, Mr Cunningham told gardaí.

The Bulgarians were to pay £5 million for the sand and gravel pit but only £2 million was to be put on the contract, said Mr Cunningham during the video-taped interview played yesterday at his trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on money-laundering charges.

Mr Cunningham denies 20 charges of money-laundering, including one of possessing £3,010,380 at Farran between December 20th, 2004, and February 16th, 2005, knowing or believing it to be the proceeds of a robbery at the Northern Bank Cash Centre in Belfast.

Mr Cunningham told gardaí he had not lodged the money to a bank because the deal had still to be finalised but he intended sharing it out among his fellow owners of the sand pit – engineering contractor David O’Sullivan, accountant Gerard Murphy and business partner Irene Johnstone.

The group had solicitor Joe Colgan, of Arran Quay in Dublin, acting for them but he had not drawn up any documents at that stage for the sale of the land to the Bulgarians, said Mr Cunningham, adding he had intended disclosing the money to the Revenue Commissioners.

Mr Cunningham said he did not know where the Bulgarians had got the money but he knew it was undeclared by them.

“The one question I asked them was ‘is it drug money?’ because I wouldn’t touch drug money if my life depended on it and they told me it was not drug money,” he said.

Questioned by gardaí about the £2.3 million found in his house in Farran, Mr Cunningham said he had given two payments of £5,000 and £6,000 to a man called Tom Hanlon who had done some clearance work around his newly built house.

Mr Cunningham agreed with gardaí Mr Hanlon was the only person who had worked on his house whom he had paid using the sterling he had got from the Bulgarians, and that he had paid the others with cheques.

The gardaí questioned Mr Cunningham closely about his payments to Mr Hanlon, to whom he had also lent his SUV.

“As I said earlier, I wouldn’t be in a position to talk. I paid him – you were asking me questions about this individual but I don’t want to get involved,” he said.

The case continues.