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07 Jul 2022

Court seizes Mercedes from man found with over €350k in Louth car park

Court seizes Mercedes from gang money man found with over €350k in Louth car park

Special Criminal Court

The Special Criminal Court has ordered the seizure of a Mercedes worth an estimated €50,000 from an "international crime gang" member who was involved in moving hundreds of thousands of euro in an "industrial scale" money laundering operation.

Thomas Rooney (52), of Betaghstown, Bettystown, Co Meath pleaded guilty last year to offences under Section 7 of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Act 2010.

He was found in possession of €289,770 and £65,025 (e77,000) in crime cash in a blue Nike holdall at Spar car park, Donore Road, Drogheda on May 11, 2020.

Rooney, who was described as a "mid-to-high level" member of the gang, also pleaded guilty to possessing €254,840 in a black holdall bag at Donore Road and to possessing €7,650 at North Road, Drogheda, on the same date.

A subsequent search of his home uncovered an encrypted Aquarius phone along with fake designer bags, luxury watches and two signal blockers. Rooney was sentenced to six years' imprisonment by the three-judge court in January of this year.

Gardai also seized a black Mercedes S350 that Rooney used as part of his limousine business. Garret Baker BL previously told the court that the State was seeking the forfeiture of the Mercedes, which was in possession of Rooney's chauffeur service company EBT Executive Travel Ltd, because the defendant had admitted counting €7,650 in crime cash from an envelope in the vehicle. Counsel said that Rooney had also sent co-ordinating texts from a phone plugged into the car.

Mr Baker said that if someone is "rumbled" for the offence in question, the consequences can "go beyond personal liberty" and the State's request was a "legitimate application to make if people engage with obscene amounts of money that are criminally generated".

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, at the three-judge, non-jury court, described it as a "luxury second hand car" which was valued at e72,000 when Rooney bought it in 2018.

The judge estimated the current value to be in the region of e50,000 and accepted that besides its financial value, the car could be used by Rooney as a means of making a legitimate living.

However, he also noted that Rooney used the car to transport the cash in what was an "industrial scale money laundering" operation.

Rooney must be taken to have accepted the risk his conduct entailed and, Mr Justice Hunt said, the court could not signal to other criminals that they can use their own property for such criminal enterprises with no impunity.

He therefore ordered the forfeiture order that had been sought by the State.

Mr Justice Hunt previously remarked that Rooney would have been better off using a "cheap banger off done deal" rather than the "high-end" Mercedes in question.

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