Saturday 21 September 2019

€25k worth of cryptocurrency held by man convicted of drug offences ruled proceeds of crime

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Stock picture

Tim Healy

The High Court has ruled that cryptocurrency held by a man serving a prison sentence for drugs offences is the proceeds of crime.

Ms Justice Carmel Stewart made orders sought by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) over 2000 units of a currency known as  Ether or Ethereum, worth approximately €25,000.

CAB found it in a online "cryptocurrency wallet" belonging to Neil Mannion (37) of Mount Drummond Avenue, Harold's Cross, Dublin.

Mr Mannion had opposed CAB's application on the grounds the investigation into his holding of this cryptocurrency had breached his rights.

Those arguments were dismissed by the Judge.

Mannion is currently serving a six and a half year prison sentence arising out of a search by gardai of a unit at Bank House Business Centre, South Circular Road, Dublin, in November 2014.

Mannion admitted the premises was being used as a distribution centre for the sale of illegal drugs.

He also admitted trading on the darknet sites the Silk Road and Agora under the alias the Hulkster.

In 2015, a judge at Dublin Circuit Court jailed Mannion after he and a co-accused both admitted possession of LSD, amphetamine and cannabis resin with intent to sell or supply at the Bank House Business Centre on November 5, 2014.

CAB also brought proceedings against Mannion claiming that funds contained in various bank accounts, credits cards and in Bitcoin, were the proceeds of crime.

Those proceedings were settled in February 2016.

The Ethereum currency did not form part of the first set of proceedings as at the time it had not started operating as a trading currency.  

Following a review of the case, CAB decided to bring a fresh application in July 2016 seeking to have the Ethereum deemed the proceeds of crime.

Mannnion argued that because the criminal proceedings had concluded against him in December 2015, the State no longer had the authority to retain his computer system or any copies of it.

He argued that while this breach of his rights was inadvertent, this inadvertence was not excusable and the material should be excluded.  

CAB rejected his claims.

Ms Justice Stewart dismissed Mannion's arguments and said the State agents involved had conducted themselves with commendable diligence, and with due regard to their constitutional obligations. 

In a case that "broke new legal ground", she said, Mannion's constitutional and legal rights were not breached.

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