Cab pursuing gang members’ property in negative equity

Ex-wife loses claim to frozen money after court accepts man’s evidence on criminality

The Cab has said the practice of gang members applying for mortgages on property and other loans and then laundering the proceeds of their crimes by servicing the debt was becoming “increasingly prevalent”. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The Cab has said the practice of gang members applying for mortgages on property and other loans and then laundering the proceeds of their crimes by servicing the debt was becoming “increasingly prevalent”. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

 

The Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) is pursuing property owned by criminals that has fallen deep into negative equity as part of its campaign to block new money-laundering efforts.

The bureau said the practice of gang members applying for mortgages and other loans and then laundering the proceeds of their crimes by servicing the debt was becoming “increasingly prevalent”.

It was determined that distressed assets would not become money-laundering vehicles that the State had no interest in seizing because of the negative financial implications.

Head of Cab, Det Chief Supt Eugene Corcoran, said because criminals were becoming more sophisticated at hiding cash and other assets, a new “investigative training course” had been devised for those working with the bureau.

“[The] tactics employed by those involved in hiding the proceeds of crime have become more sophisticated,” he said in Cab’s annual report for 2013.

A “high level of skill, expertise and education” needed to be maintained in the “ever-changing operational environment” facing the bureau.

When the Cab found that properties it was targeting had dropped in value since being purchased, it prioritised those cases where the mortgage payments were a cover for money laundering, even when a negative equity situation had arisen.

“This is designed to ensure that those involved in serious organised crime are not put in the advantageous position of being able to remain in the property and thereby benefit from the proceeds of crime,” the report notes.

In one case last year involving a sum of money rather than a property, UK-based criminal Frederick Mallon gave evidence to the High Court confirming some £120,000 in Irish bank accounts represented the proceeds of his insurance and stolen car-related crime, rather than his plant hire business.

His ex-wife, Mellanie Hackett, claimed the monies were legitimate and that she was entitled to half of the funds as part of the divorce settlement. But she lost the action when the High Court accepted Mallon’s “candid” evidence.

Other notable features for Cab last year were:

Some 16 Proceeds of Crime cases were finalised in 2013, with assets divested and monies transferred to State coffers totalling €1 million.

Some €5.4 million was collected in unpaid taxes as a result of Cab’s activities last year and €287,000 collected from the overpayment of social welfare.

Some eight new Proceeds of Crime cases were commenced last year, compared with 15 in 2012.

Cash was the asset most frequently targeted, and it was at the centre of 42 of 48 applications to the High Court last year compared to 18 case cases in 2012. There were four orders made for property assets last year and two for vehicles.

High Court proceedings were begun in 12 cases to recover the sum of €14.166 million in taxes and penalties.

Also last year, the High Court dismissed a lis pendens action by John Gilligan. The order, if granted, may have frustrated the sale of the Jessbrook property on the Kildare-Meath border seized from Gilligan, as it would have informed the purchaser the property was still subject to litigation.