Money-launderer had enough weapons ‘to arm a small country’, court told
Pair originally charged with 50 offences but pleaded guilty to a total of eight offences
A woman and her partner, who was rumbled as he left an arsenal of firearms and ammunition that could “arm a small country”, laundered hundreds of thousands of euro in organised crime cash, the Special Criminal Court has heard.
Forensic analysis of accounts linked to Carol Davis (45) revealed that over €44,000 was spent on travel while €40,000 was spent on a mobile home, the non-jury court also heard. An analysis of accounts linked to her partner Jonathan Harding (48) showed that €52,000 was spent on travel alone, but that gardaí had no ability to say who took the flights concerned.
Jonathan Harding (48) of Kerdiff Avenue, Naas, Co Kildare, has pleaded guilty to five charges of converting, transferring or handling property, to wit money, between January 1st, 2012, and December 31st, 2016, at EBS, Bank of Ireland and AIB accounts, the proceeds of criminal conduct.
Co-accused, Carol Davis, (45) of Clonmacnoise Road, Crumlin, Dublin 12, pleaded guilty to three offences between January 1st, 2014, and December 31st, 2016, relating to accounts held in her own name also at EBS, AIB and Bank of Ireland.
The pair had originally been charged with 50 offences but pleaded guilty to a total of eight offences.
A sentencing hearing at the non-jury court on Monday heard that the charges come under the Criminal Justice Act 2010 (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing).
Detective Sergeant Tom Anderson, of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, told Ms Fiona Murphy SC, prosecuting, that on January 24th, 2017, on foot of a warrant targeting organised crime, gardaí went to a business premises in Greenogue, Rathcoole, Dublin 24.
Det Sgt Anderson said that two men were observed leaving the premises while the search was about to be executed.
The witness said that 15 firearms, including a Kalashnikov, a sub-machine gun, and a semi-automatic weapon were found alongside a device to manufacture vehicle registrations, while a stolen forklift and a mobile tracking device were also found.
Harding previously pleaded guilty to the possession of nine revolvers, four pistols, a sub-machine gun, an assault rifle and various ammunition magazines and was sentenced to 10 years in prison with one year suspended in January 2018.
In July 2019 Declan Brady (54), who is known as “Mr Nobody” and who was tasked by senior criminal figures abroad to supervise the weapons cache, was sentenced to 11-and-a-half years imprisonment after pleading guilty to possession of the weapons.
Det Sgt Anderson said that one of the two men leaving the premises was Jonathan Harding and a follow-up search of his Naas home resulted in financial information that led to an AIB account holding €48,553 being frozen by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) before being seized by the State.
Information regarding 13 accounts in various financial institutions were investigated by gardaí with five accounts deemed relevant to Harding’s and Davis’s laundering charges.
Two of the accounts were held in Jonathan Harding’s name while three were held in Carol Davis’s name and related to EBS, Bank of Ireland and AIB accounts.
Det Sgt Anderson agreed with Ms Murphy that Harding had described himself as a self-employed “mobile mechanic” but had no limited company status, nor a trading name.
Revenue figures read by Ms Murphy revealed that Harding had declared €6,811 of income for 2014, €22,056 for 2015 and €34,659 for 2016.
Regarding an EBS account in Harding’s name, 23 cash lodgments amounted to over €66,000 from 2014 to 2016 while an AIB account for the same period saw over €96,000 deposited.
Carol Davis, the court heard, had three bank accounts under investigation at EBS, AIB and Bank of Ireland.
Between 2014 and 2016 a total of just over €136,000 was lodged to her EBS account and a similar amount was withdrawn during the same time period.
Total lodgments to the AIB account held in her name, between 2012 and 2016, amounted to €117,000 with a similar amount being withdrawn.
A Bank of Ireland account in her name for the 2015-2016 period showed a total lodgment of around €13,000 with over €17,000 being withdrawn over the same period.
Harding was arrested and interviewed three times, during which it was put to him that €197,000 had been passed through Carol Davis’s accounts over a five-year period.
Det Gda Anderson told the court that Harding had said, in interview, that Davis was “definitely not” involved in any criminality.
In her interview, Davis said that she was “not the only one with access to the accounts” and that she “thought Jonathan was working away”.
Davis told gardaí that she had no suspicions about the accounts and was not aware of the money coming in and out of them.
A forensic analysis of the accounts revealed that over €44,000 was spent on travel alone between 2014 and 2016 and that €40,000 was spent on a mobile home. Harding’s accounts showed that €52,000 was spent on travel but Det Sgt Anderson said gardaí “had no ability to say who took those [flights]”.
A total of 100 flights were bought between 2014 and 2016 from all five accounts.
Det Sgt Anderson told the court that Davis had no previous but that Harding had seven convictions, for theft and fraud, and was given a 10-year sentence from the Special Criminal Court for the firearms offences.
Mr Sean Guerin SC, for Harding, said that his client had entered an early guilty plea, was co-operative with gardaí and accepted that he had been using Davis’s accounts without her knowledge.
Mr Guerin said that by pleading guilty his client had avoided a complex trial, a statement with which Det Sgt Anderson agreed.
Mr Ronan Kennedy SC, for Davis, said that his client had no previous convictions and was not on any “Garda radar” before or after her 2018 arrest, to which Det Sgt Anderson agreed.
Mr Kennedy said that in her Garda interviews, Davis had “expressed genuine surprise and disbelief” regarding the monies being moved in and out of her accounts.
Counsel added that the mobile home had been forfeited to the State under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
He said that Davis believed that Harding, with whom she was in a long-term relationship, was “legitimately in business as a mobile mechanic and working away”.
Mr Kennedy said that Davis was aware of Harding’s criminal past but that she had assisted a Cab inquiry and had supplied the keys to the mobile home and documents regarding its purchase.
Counsel said Davis might have been “reckless” to allow Harding access to her accounts but that this was the extent of her involvement and that she was “not involved in any underlying criminality”.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that people should be “very, very careful with what access people give to others regarding bank accounts”.
Mr Guerin said that his client, Harding, had co-operated to a substantial degree, accepted responsibility for his action.
Mr Guerin said that Harding had no addiction issues and regretted his involvement with criminality.
“He’s 48, it’s about time he put his house in order,” said Mr Justice Hunt, who added that Harding had been convicted of possessing enough firearms to arm “a small country”.
Mr Kennedy said Davis had a good work ethic, had never been in trouble with gardaí and that she cared for her aunt and was “the glue that holds the family unit together”.
Counsel said that Davis’s plea was entered on the basis of her being “reckless” but that she was “the consequence of someone else’s criminal activity”.
Mr Justice Hunt adjourned the case to December 15th for sentencing. The maximum sentence for a money-laundering offence under the 2010 Act is 14 years.