Friday 9 December 2016

Five officers sent Down Under to extradite solicitor

Former property dealer wanted on fraud charges says garda mission glorified 'junket'

Published 24/04/2011 | 05:00

The gardai plan to send five officers, including a detective inspector and four sergeants, to Australia to extradite a former solicitor and property dealer who has no criminal record and is wanted in connection with alleged offences that happened 12 years ago.

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"They're sending this posse on a junket to collect me at a huge cost to the taxpayers, when they won't go down the street and arrest any of the fat cat bankers who have brought Ireland to its knees," said former solicitor Vincent O'Donoghue from his jail cell in Australia last week.

The once high-flying businessman claims that the State has spent millions trying to extradite him from Australia, although he was questioned and released by gardai in Mountjoy garda station in Dublin on August 2, 2001.

The following year, Mr O'Donoghue emigrated to Australia, where he lived with his wife Ann-Marie and four young children until his arrest.

An extradition warrant for Mr O'Donoghue was first issued in 2005 and, after his bail was revoked, he has been in custody in Perth since April 2009, leaving his family dependent on St Vincent de Paul for their basic needs.

In a briefing document to the Australian Attorney General's office, Mr O'Donoghue claims that the Irish charges are politically motivated, that the alleged conduct is a civil rather than criminal matter, that the offences are minor, and that he would not receive a fair trial in Ireland because of the time elapsed since the alleged offences.

In a surrender warrant issued by the Commonwealth of Australia and dated March 23, 2011, five gardai are detailed as the 'escort', which will go to Australia to collect Mr O'Donoghue.

They are named in the document as Detective Inspector Gerard Joseph Walsh, Sergeant Martin O'Neill, Sergeant Sean Fallon, Sergeant James Kirwan and Detective Sergeant Matthew J Sheridan.

"I just can't understand it -- they've spent millions on this extradition case so far, and you would think that five senior gardai had better things to do than come to Australia to collect me when I have no criminal record of any kind. The only thing against me is that I am bankrupt and that's not uncommon in Ireland today," Mr O'Donoghue said.

"As far as I am concerned, they'd be much better off going down the street in Dublin where there are plenty of bankers and developers who have destroyed the economy."

According to Mr O'Donoghue, the State has spent millions over the last nine years pursuing him over what he claims is a civil rather than a criminal matter.

Mr O'Donoghue, who once lived in Ashurst, the Killiney mansion in Dublin once owned by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, became involved in selling property in Belfast in the late 1990s, because after becoming bankrupt he couldn't set up business in the Republic.

As a result of complaints by two men who allege they gave money to Mr O'Donoghue for deposits on property he wasn't entitled to sell, he was questioned at Mountjoy garda station in August 2001.

A file was submitted to the DPP in October 2001.

On June 28, 2002, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Mr O'Donoghue, whose address at the time was Beaumont Road, Dublin 9.

Mr O'Donoghue faced eight charges of obtaining property by false pretences or, "in the alternative", eight charges of fraudulent conversion.

He was arrested in Australia in 2005 and has fought a lengthy legal battle in both state and federal courts ever since.

Although Mr O'Donoghue has been in jail for two years, leaving his wife and four young children in a state of penury, the Australian Attorney General's office says there is "minimal media interest in this matter".

In a briefing document submitted by the Irish DPP to the Australian authorities, it is argued that the "complexities of the case" led to a delay between the investigation of the first complaint against Mr O'Donoghue in 1998 and the issuing of an arrest warrent on June 28, 2002.

The DPP states that a three-year delay is "by no means unusual". It also said that a further delay of eight years "could have been saved" if Mr O'Donoghue had returned voluntarily to Ireland.

It also claims that "the fact that a matter may be civil in nature does not preclude it also being criminal" and alleges that Mr O'Donoghue was involved in eight "fraudulent transactions" -- although only two complaints were made against him.

Mr O'Donoghue has claimed that while he did get deposits for property in Temple Bar in Dublin and a property in Belfast, he did not retain these funds, although he has accepted responsibility for them.

Mr O'Donoghue claims that the amount involved in the alleged offences came to a total of €30,000. The DPP claims that "the funds were significant" to the two complainants because "the alleged offences occurred before the rapid inflation in the cost of living in Ireland, which has occurred during the last 10 to 12 years".

The DPP also says "it vehemently contests that An Garda Siochana were doing a favour to their counterparts in Northern Ireland" because Mr O'Donoghue is suing the PSNI for what they admit was his wrongful arrest in Belfast.

Although the Australian Federal minister, Brendan O'Connor, has authorised the extradition of Mr O'Donoghue to Ireland, the matter is now the subject of a further judicial review in Australia.

Mr O'Donoghue has obtained an injunction preventing his extradition pending another hearing on claims that the Irish Government's warrant is not "valid" and that it has failed to take in matters such as the likelihood that Mr O'Donoghue could not get a fair trial in Ireland.

Sunday Independent

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