Tape of garda threats to man’s wife and child collapses trial

Eimantas Valteris (33) had pleaded not guilty to unlawful possession of semi-automatic pistol

Eimantas Valteris, of Park Vale, Grange Rath, Drogheda, Co Meath, had pleaded not guilty to the unlawful possession of a semi-automatic pistol at Balmoral Industrial Estate in Navan, Co Meath on June 10th, 2013. He was the first Lithuanian to stand trial at the Special Criminal Court. File photograph: Collins Courts

Eimantas Valteris, of Park Vale, Grange Rath, Drogheda, Co Meath, had pleaded not guilty to the unlawful possession of a semi-automatic pistol at Balmoral Industrial Estate in Navan, Co Meath on June 10th, 2013. He was the first Lithuanian to stand trial at the Special Criminal Court. File photograph: Collins Courts

 

A trial has collapsed after the court heard a taped a conversation in which gardaí told the accused his wife would be arrested and his child would go into care if he did not accept responsibility for possessing firearms and silencers.

Eimantas Valteris (33), was arrested in 2013 as part of an ongoing operation to counter dissident republican activities in the Border area.

Mr Valteris, of Park Vale, Grange Rath, Drogheda, Co Meath, had pleaded not guilty to the unlawful possession of a semi-automatic pistol at Balmoral Industrial Estate in Navan, Co Meath on June 10th, 2013. He was the first Lithuanian to stand trial at the Special Criminal Court.

The prosecution decision not to proceed with the trial came after the court heard a “voir dire”, or trial within a trial.

During the voir dire, defence counsel Hugh Hartnett SC introduced the audio of a recorded conversation between Mr Valteris and two gardaí, one of whom was Det Sgt Padraig Boyce of the Special Detective Unit.

Det Sgt Boyce accepted he was one of the two gardaí heard in the recording, which was made by the accused during an encounter he had with the two gardaí­ after his initial arrest.

‘Batch of four’

In the tape, the gardaí­ were heard telling Mr Valteris “we’ll look after you” if he accepted responsibility for three other firearms and four silencers. The gardaí­ told him they knew the items were a “batch of four”.

Mr Valteris was told that if he did not accept responsibility for the other items, gardaí­ would be “directed” to arrest his wife.

“If you don’t take responsibility, she’ll be next.”

Mr Valteris was told by the gardaí­ that if his wife was arrested, their child would “go into care”.

He was told he was “digging a hole to put your missus” in if he wanted “to go down that route”.

The gardaí told Mr Valteris they knew he was “bullshitting”, that they would “have to go to your house now and arrest your partner... She’ll be in custody”.

The gardaí­ were heard asking Mr Valteris: “Have we a deal or no deal... If we don’t [have a deal] I’m going to have to arrest your partner”.

The Director of Public Prosecutions entered a nolle prosequi – a decision not to proceed on the charge – before the playing of the tape could be resumed.

On the fourth day of the trial, Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, told the three-judge court Mr Valteris could be discharged.

Mr Valteris had pleaded not guilty to unlawful possession of a .32 inch auto (7.65mm) calibre IZH 79-8 model Baikal semi-automatic pistol with serial number TPB358706 at Balmoral Industrial Estate, Navan, Co Meath on June 10th, 2013.

The court had heard Mr Valteris operated a car sales depot at the Balmoral facility.

It was the prosecution case that he was observed by gardaí arriving at the depot on the afternoon of June 10th, 2013. The court would hear evidence that Mr Valteris was seen going to a nearby yard where a red Fiat Ducato van was parked.

A black VW Passat car came back to the yard and stopped close to where Mr Valteris was standing. A man was observed opening the boot of the Passat and then the car left the yard.

The Passat was later stopped by gardaí in Castlebellingham, Co Louth and a semi-automatic pistol was found wrapped in material in a box in the boot.

The prosecution alleged that Mr Valteris had been storing the gun.