Aircraft owned by cannabis dealer among items auctioned by Cab

Increasing volumes of designer goods being seized by agency as proceeds of crime

The bureau has been seizing increasing large amounts of luxury goods from suspected criminals in recent years.

The bureau has been seizing increasing large amounts of luxury goods from suspected criminals in recent years.

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Designer shoes, Bitcoin and a small aircraft were among the items auctioned off by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) last year after they were found to be the proceeds of crime.

The bureau has been seizing increasing large amounts of luxury goods from suspected criminals in recent years. High-end goods, such as Rolex watches and designer handbags, are seen by criminals as a convenient and less obvious way of storing wealth.

In 2020 Cab held three “bespoke” online auctions of such items to realise the value of these goods. One lot include a Calidus Gyroplane, a two-seater helicopter-like aircraft which was seized from cannabis dealer Clifton Collins in 2017.

During the same operations Cab also seized 12 online Bitcoin accounts containing €53.6 million. However it is not able to access this money as Collins hid the passwords in a fishing rod which was accidental throw away. Collins was jailed for five years for possession of more than 500 plants with a combined value of €400,000.

In total the bureau raised €280,500 in 2020 by selling goods through auction, according to its annual report. Other lots included a boat engine, designer handbags/luggage, designer clothing, designer footwear and a number of high-end vehicles.

Looted

In total Cab turned over €4.2 million to the Exchequer last year in funds found to be either the proceeds of crime or as a result of Revenue or social welfare fraud.

Another €5.5 million was returned to the government of Nigeria after it was seized by the bureau. The money was looted from the country by its former dictator General Sani Abacha, who placed it in HSBC Life Europe in Ireland for the benefit of his oldest son.

Cab brought 31 new applications before the High Court under proceeds-of-crime legislation. Most related to drug trafficking offences, but cases were also brought relating to burglary, fraud and money laundering.

Officers also obtained orders freezing 935 bank accounts suspected of being used by criminals. These related to 76 Cab targets. The bureau currently oversees over €4.6 million in frozen assets.

It also took possession of over €226,000 owned by William Porter, a former doctor living in Tipperary who charged terminally ill patients up to €20,000 for discredited cancer treatments. The High Court concluded Porter had obtained the money by deception by offering treatments to people with incurable ailments.

Heather Humphreys: ‘The bureau is an example of international best practice in law enforcement, and over the last 25 years has demonstrated how we, as a country, can lead the way in tackling serious crime.’ Photograph: Laura Hutton
Heather Humphreys: ‘The bureau is an example of international best practice in law enforcement, and over the last 25 years has demonstrated how we, as a country, can lead the way in tackling serious crime.’ Photograph: Laura Hutton

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys said Cab “continues to play a crucial role in deterring illegal activity by freezing and confiscating assets identified as deriving from the proceeds of crime”.

“The bureau is an example of international best practice in law enforcement, and over the last 25 years has demonstrated how we, as a country, can lead the way in tackling serious crime.”

She also welcomed the introduction of a Community Safety Innovation Fund which will see funds seized by Cab reinvested in local communities.

Cryptocurrency

Other Cab operations in 2020 included the seizure of €1.2 million in Bitcoin from an man convicted of stealing cryptocurrency as part of a global criminal gang. Cab first received information on the case from Homeland Security in the US, who said he was part of “an online group who were conspiring via online platforms in the theft of cryptocurrency from unsuspecting persons”.

Another operation target the Kinahan organised crime gang, resulting in the seizure of two houses, two plots of land, four motor vehicles, a motorcycle, almost €17,000 cash, four high-value watches and one diamond ring.

Another operation targeting a drugs gang resulted in the seizure of €20,875 cash and six high-value Canada Goose and Moncler Morvan jackets.