Language difficulties gave rise to criminal charges, woman says


The Swiss woman at the centre of the money-laundering trial yesterday denied she knew money sent to her from the Continent was associated with crime.

Ms Maria Bernadetta Jehle (47), of The Priory, Cobh, Co Cork, told Cork Criminal Circuit Court she would never touch anything associated with crime, had never been in trouble with the police anywhere before and believed the charges against her were the result of a misunderstanding resulting from language difficulties.

"No way," she told her senior counsel, Mr Blaise O'Carroll, when he asked if she would have touched such money had she known of "something untoward".

She claimed that during questioning at Midleton Garda station on May 16th and 17th last year, after her arrest, she was bullied and threatened by gardai who told her the IRA would burn down her house if she did not co-operate.

One garda took off his shoe and banged it on the palm of his hand and she thought she was going to be hit.

"I immediately grabbed the pen and signed," she said. "I had heard the IRA burned down houses belonging to foreigners and I took that very seriously."

She claimed the statement she had signed contained many inaccuracies and some things she said had been omitted.

She "had no idea what was going on" during her first appearance before Midleton District Court.

There was no translator and she did not see a solicitor until Mr Joe Cuddigan represented her in that court.

Referring to questioning by a Swiss magistrate, Mr Adrian Junker, Ms Jehle said she only knew her son, Peter, was there for questioning.

"My son was being severely threatened by the Mafia. He complained to the Swiss police and as a result of that he was asked to appear before Mr Junker who was investigating the matter."

Questioned about her business dealings with Mr Sven Uwe Palisch, she said she did not know the money she received from him was the proceeds of criminal activity.

"As far as I was concerned I was involved in an ordinary business deal."

It is the State's case that Mr Palisch, a German, and Mr Peter Jehle swindled money from a German hotelier and French dentist and laundered it through Irish bank accounts.

It was the second day of Ms Jehle's evidence in chief, given through an interpreter. The State's senior counsel, Ms Maureen Clarke, is expected to cross-examine her today, which will be the 34th day of the trial before Judge Patrick Moran and a jury.

Ms Jehle denies two charges of handling money knowing it was the proceeds of criminal activity by others.