Court upholds sentence of global crime gang’s ‘sacrificial lamb’

DPP argued three-and-a-half-year jail term for money laundering was unduly lenient

A three-and-a-half-year jail term handed down to an Italian global crime gang member who helped launder hundreds of thousands of euro in fraud cash was not “excessively unduly lenient”, the Court of Appeal has found.

Giuseppe Diviccaro (47), of Addison Drive, Glasnevin, Dublin, pleaded guilty to knowingly contributing to the activities of a criminal organisation within the State on dates between June 21st, 2018 and July 17th, 2020.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) claimed almost €1m obtained by fraud had been laundered through Irish bank accounts by the international crime gang to which Diviccaro belonged.

Diviccaro had also pleaded guilty to offences of money laundering on dates between June 22nd, 2018 and April 6th, 2019. He has three previous convictions in Italy, including convictions for damaging a public building and making a false statement regarding his own identification.

At his sentence hearing, Det Garda Angela Gavin had told Fionnuala O'Sullivan BL, prosecuting, that the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau became interested in the emerging trend of bank accounts being opened in Italian names in Ireland which were then receiving money from invoice redirect frauds.

Det Garda Gavin said the head of the Bureau formed the view that these people were part of an “international criminal organisation” that had been laundering the proceeds of fraud through accounts in Ireland since early 2018.

She said well over €1m was thought to have been stolen as of April 2020, with substantially more stolen since.

Diviccaro had opened seven bank accounts with seven separate banks into which fraudulently obtained funds were transferred and then moved out “very quickly”.

Low reward

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was told last July that while most of the accounts were opened using a legitimate Italian ID card, the defendant used the same fraudulent utility bill that had been used by a large number of other persons of interest.

The court was told more than €200,000 was transferred into these accounts, with approximately 70 per cent of those funds being quickly transferred or withdrawn.

Judge Melanie Greally sentenced Diviccaro to five years' imprisonment, but suspended the final 18 months on strict conditions including that he leave the jurisdiction within 14 days of his release and not return for 15 years.

The DPP later appealed the sentence on the grounds it was unduly lenient.

Ms O’Sullivan, for the DPP, told the Court of Appeal that Diviccaro would not be subject to a supervision order when he leaves custody because he must leave this jurisdiction when his jail term ends.

“This is not a standalone money laundering fraud, but has a criminal organisation in the background,” Ms O’Sullivan added.

Counsel also told the court that the maximum sentence for money laundering was 14 years and a higher headline sentence in this case should have been considered by the sentencing judge.

“We are not dealing with one count of money laundering. This became an enterprise, an enterprise which lasted two years, and that is a significant aggravating factor,” she said.

James Dwyer SC, for Diviccaro, compared his client's role in the offending to a 'drugs mule' who takes "all the risk for low reward".

“A central component in sentencing is the role of the accused,” he said. “This person has to be seen as the front man, who allows his identity to be used and is easily detected. He is not the brains of the operation, he is the sacrificial lamb and he will be detected every time.”

The sentence imposed on his client, Mr Dwyer added, was “entirely appropriate”.

Refusing the DPP's application, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, sitting with Mr Justice George Birmingham, presiding, and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said on Friday, January 28th, the sentence imposed was well within Judge Greally's discretion and the court would not interfere.