A father-of-four accused of laundering crime cash told gardaí that €1,275 had come from "up his Swiss roll" when asked to account for it, the Special Criminal Court has heard.
The non-jury court heard on Wednesday that Graham Whelan told officers from the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB) that he got €1,275 in cash from “up his Swiss roll, up his a**e” and told them to keep it, when they searched his penthouse suite at the south Dublin Intercontinental Hotel in 2019, which it is alleged he had booked for three nights.
Mr Whelan was granted bail by the three-judge court on Wednesday despite the objections of gardaí, who said they believed the defendant was a flight risk as he had access to “endless amounts of cash”.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that despite evidence of the accused man presenting as a flight risk, the “crucial factor in this case” was the death of Mr Whelan’s partner.
Keith Spencer BL, defending, had submitted that his client’s partner died last September and Mr Whelan was now responsible for their four children, who are aged between two and 10 years.
Mr Whelan (38), of Walkinstown Avenue, Walkinstown, Dublin 12 appeared before the non-jury court last Monday charged with 10 non-scheduled offences that include charges related to drug trafficking.
At Wednesday’s bail hearing, Detective Garda Donal Donoghue told Gerardine Small BL, for the State, that he had arrested Mr Whelan on foot of a warrant at Walkinstown Avenue at 12.35pm on Monday afternoon.
The detective said gardaí were objecting to bail under the “O’Callaghan principles” and Section 2 of the Bail Act. Section 2 allows a court to refuse bail if the court is satisfied such refusal is necessary to prevent the person committing a serious offence while on bail.
The witness said gardaí from the DOCB searched a penthouse suite at the Intercontinental Hotel on January 31, 2019, which he said Mr Whelan had booked for three nights and is alleged to have paid €2,140 for in cash.
Det Gda Donoghue said €1,275 in cash was found in Mr Whelan’s pocket and after caution the accused told gardaí that he got the money from “up his Swiss roll, up his a**e” and told them to keep it.
The witness said the second item discovered was a receipt in Mr Whelan’s name for €2,140 for the hotel, which the accused told gardaí he had got from his life savings. The next item seized was an Audemers Piguet Royal Oak Gentleman’s watch, which was valued at €28,000 and found on the accused’s hand, said the detective.
A tick list was recovered with words such as “jacket”, “nasty” and “duck”, which the detective said were all code names for controlled drugs.
A number of mobile phones including a BQ Aquaris were seized, said the witness, which he believed the accused had on him to assist in drug trafficking offences. Cocaine and cannabis were also recovered from the bedroom, Det Gda Donoghue said.
Mr Whelan was not arrested after a search of the hotel room and a money laundering investigation started, said the detective.
On May 1 2019, the defendant’s home was searched and he was arrested on suspicion of money laundering but later released without charge. During the search, the detective said gardaí discovered that a substantial amount of work had been undertaken to refurbish his property and it was alleged that Mr Whelan had paid cash to upgrade the structure and internal fittings of the premises.
“An extremely high standard” of home improvements had been undertaken to refurbish the property, he added.
The detective said the maximum conviction for money laundering was 14 years in prison.
Det Gda Donoghue indicated he had a concern that the accused would interfere with witnesses in the case but said his main concern was that the defendant was a flight risk as he had access to “endless amounts of cash”.
Ms Small said Mr Whelan’s passport was seized from his family home on Clonard Road in Crumlin on May 1st, 2019 and he had applied for a new one on June 12th, 2019, saying he had lost his passport moving house. The detective said it was his belief that the accused was aware his original passport was in the possession of gardaí on May 1st and it has not since been returned to the accused.
Ms Small asked the witness if his fears were allayed due to the fact that the accused is a father to four children. “My main fear is he is a flight risk despite that fact,” he replied.
Keith Spencer BL, for Mr Whelan, put it to the witness that his client was unclear what items were taken from his house and it had transpired to be a passport. Mr Whelan’s solicitor later got in touch with gardaí and asked for his passport to be returned, he said.
The barrister said the accused had applied for another passport on June 20th, 2019 and had ticked “lost” on the form. He was then issued with a new passport.
The detective accepted that his client’s solicitor had written to gardaí in October 2020 indicating that the accused was willing to cooperate with the investigation and would present himself at a Garda station if he was to be arrested.
Mr Spencer said the accused’s partner had died last September and he was now responsible for his four children .
In his submissions to the court, the lawyer said the offending was towards the lower end of the scale and the court could admit his client on bail subject to conditions.
Mr Spencer said his client did not know where his first passport was when he applied for the second one and only subsequently learned that his original passport was in the possession of gardaí. “He had the tools to leave the jurisdiction but didn’t leave and remained here,” he added.
Mr Justice Hunt interjected saying: “He stood pat and took a second passport he was then not entitled to and put it in his back pocket”.
Ms Small submitted that Mr Whelan was a “very real flight risk” with “significant ties outside the jurisdiction” and the passport issue was very concerning.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Flann Brennan, granted bail to Mr Whelan on Wednesday afternoon on a number of conditions.
Mr Justice Hunt said that while Mr Whelan does present a flight risk, the court has to consider whether the risk justifies a refusal of bail and whether it could be managed. He told Mr Whelan that the “crucial factor in this case” was his recent personal history, the death of his partner.
He added: “Mr Whelan better understand very clearly that’s the reason he is getting bail.” He said that if he does not comply with the conditions his bail will be revoked.
The court will require an independent surety of €20,000, which is expected to be lodged this Friday. Mr Whelan must also give up his passport, undertake not to apply for a new one and must live at his family home in Walkinstown. He is subject to a curfew from 7pm to 7am and must sign on twice daily at his local Garda station.
Mr Justice Hunt also asked the parties in the case to be prepared to go to trial by September this year.
Mr Whelan is charged with converting, transferring, handling, acquiring, possessing or using money in the amounts of €1,275 and €2,140 at the Intercontinental Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, on January 31st 2019, knowing or believing or being reckless as to whether the property was the proceeds of criminal conduct. The amount of €2,140 was paid for a room at the five star hotel.
He is also charged with converting, transferring, handling, acquiring, possessing or using an Audemers Piguet Royal Oak Gentleman’s watch at the same time and location, knowing or believing or being reckless as to whether the property was the proceeds of criminal conduct.
The accused man is further charged with possessing or controlling an article to wit a tick list in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable inference that he possessed or controlled it for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation, facilitation or instigation of a drug trafficking offence on the same occasion.
He is also accused of possessing or controlling an article to wit a BQ Aquarius mobile phone in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable inference that he possessed or controlled it for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation, facilitation or instigation of a drug trafficking offence on the same occasion.
In addition, Mr Whelan is charged with possessing cocaine and cannabis in a room at the hotel on the same date. He is also charged with possessing cannabis on Walkinstown Avenue, Walkinstown, Dublin 12 on May 1, 2019.
The defendant is further charged with concealing and disguising the true nature or source of money used in the improvement and/or refurbishment of property at Walkinstown Avenue, Walkinstown, Dublin 12 between August 21st 2018 and May 1st 2019, knowing or believing or being reckless as to whether the property was the proceeds of criminal conduct.
Finally, Mr Whelan is accused of converting, transferring, handling, acquiring, possessing or using money in the improvement and/or refurbishment of the property between the same dates, knowing or believing or being reckless as to whether the property was the proceeds of criminal conduct.