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Friday 22 August 2014

Home of Christy Russell's wife 'was acquired mostly with proceeds of crime', High Court rules

Published 16/07/2014 | 17:28

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The wife and the couple's two children cannot be identified by order of the court but Mr Russell can. The exact address of the house in Drimnagh, Dublin, can also not be published.

THE home of the wife of Christy Russell - who a judge said has extensive links to the "upper" levels of crime - was acquired mostly with proceeds of crime, the High Court has ruled.

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The wife and the couple's two children cannot be identified by order of the court but Mr Russell can. The exact address of the house in Drimnagh, Dublin, can also not be published.

Mr Justice George Birmingham said yesterday it was open to representatives of the media to be heard at a future date in relation to his order not naming the woman but he was doing so in order to balance the competing interests in the case.

The judge ruled yesterday that while the house was acquired mainly from the proceeds of crime, he was satisfied the wife had contributed a certain amount to the mortgage through her earnings as a casual hairdresser and from her child benefit payments.

Under proceeds of crime legislation, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) can sell the property after seven years unless today's order is successfully appealed or challenged further.

The judge said there was "cogent evidence" that Christy Russell had close and extensive links to people involved in the "upper levels of serious crime".

Although he only had one conviction in January 1992 for obstruction under the Misuse of Drugs Act, the "high level criminals" he associated with included Keith Maloney, Peyton Court, Rathcoole, Co Dublin who is serving seven years for possession of €2.4m worth of drugs.

In December 2010, Russell paid €17,300 for the Russell and Maloney families to go on a cruise to Florida, the CAB  told the court.

The CAB say Russell and his wife have been the beneficial owners of the house where the wife lived since 2000.

The wife did not accept her husband was involved in crime and if he was, she was not aware of it.  

Russell himself did not participate in the court case and his whereabouts is unknown.

The judge rejected claims that funding for the purchase of the house came from a tow truck business he claimed to operate.  There was no evidence such a business ever existed, he said.

He was also satisfied the income from such a business was not consistent with Russell's lifestyle which included the Florida cruise and a €38,000 extension to the house.

Apart from his associates, there  was evidence linking him directly to 40 kg of cannabis seized by gardai in June 2009 although he was never charged in connection with it, the judge said.

While a forensic accountant for the wife had challenged the analysis of income figures by CAB, the judge said, in giving her the benefit of these arguments, one would still have very significant unidentified sums considerably in excess of €700,000.

Its significance was heightened because the judge did not accept Mr Russell's business, "CR Towing", ever existed.  There was no such business listed in the Golden Pages, on the internet, or even records of dealings with garages and clients.

Tax returns submitted by Mr Russell for this business were false and designed to mislead those investigating his affairs, he said.

He made a similar observation about the wife's claim to have funded the mortgage for her home from €175 a week in as a hairdresser along with child benefit payments.

There were no records produced of shampoo and hair products bought by her, or evidence from any of her customers.

The case made by the wife was that she had been gifted the house by a man who she had been in a relationship with between 1998 and 2000.

CAB had argued the man (with whom she said she had a previous relationship) simply lent his name to the purchase of the house to provide cover for Russell.

The judge said it was hard to see how this man (in the previous relationship)could or would ever have been in a position "to act with such generosity as is suggested".

He was satisfied CAB's case in relation to the house had been made out and that it had been bought primarily with the proceeds of crime.

However, he accepted the wife would have contributed to the upkeep of the household indirectly through her limited earnings and child benefit and he believed, in the interests of justice, it was appropriate that she benefit to the extent of 12.5 per cent of the sale price if the property is sold by CAB in seven years.

 

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