Saturday 19 October 2019

Apartment linked to brothel keeper and her son is proceeds of crime, High Court rules

The High Court, Dublin
The High Court, Dublin

Tim Healy

A Limerick apartment linked to a convicted brothel keeper and her son was acquired with the proceeds of crime, the High Court has found.

Ms Justice Carmel Stewart granted the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) orders over the property in proceedings against Brazilian born Aulicete Walsh and her son Maicon Morelli, who is the apartment's registered owner.

The exact location of the apartment, which is not where the brothel was, cannot be identified for legal reasons.

On Monday, Ms Justice Stewart said she had "no hesitation" in finding that property was acquired with the proceeds of crime.

The Judge said that Mrs Walsh "had put a great deal of effort into continually flouting the law and engaging in brothel keeping". Mrs Walsh came to Ireland from Brazil in 2006. and subsequently married an Irish man.  

The judge said she had engaged in a lifestyle, which included the purchase of holidays and relatively new cars , through a criminal activity which takes advantage of vulnerable young women to make a profit.

In 2017, Mrs Walsh was convicted of brothel keeping in Ennis and Limerick in May 2015, and was given an eight-month prison sentence.

Ms Walsh, aged 55, with an address at Clarina, Co Limerick, was previously convicted of brothel keeping and fined €750 in 2012 at Newcastle West District Court.

The apartment at the centre of the CAB proceedings was bought by a bank draft in 2014 for approximately €34,000.

CAB, arising out of a garda investigation into brothel keeping, obtained orders freezing the property.

CAB sought orders under Section 3 of the 1996  Proceeds of Crime Act.

Both mother and son opposed CAB's application. They argued that just over €20,000 used to buy the apartment came from legitimate income.

If the property, which the court heard has increased in value, is sold by CAB they claimed that they should receive a percentage of the proceeds of that sale.

Mrs Walsh claimed she put €10,000 she earned doing jobs such as house cleaning, minding children, working in butchers, bakers, a clinic and restaurants in Co Galway, for which she was paid in cash.

Mr Morelli, who now resides in Brazil, claimed he was given money by his late father in Brazil which he brought to Ireland and put towards the apartment price.

He also claimed he put money came from earning from various jobs he had when he lived in Ireland.

Mr Morelli said he has never been involved in any serious criminality, and had nothing to do with his mother's brothel keeping activities.

Dismissing the mother and son's claims, the judge said they had failed to show that the property was not bought with the proceeds of crime.

There was  inconsistency with Mrs Walsh's evidence and her attempts to conceal the status of the property when interviewed by the gardai,  she said.  There was also a failure to provide financial and account evidence to support their claims about the property.

While Mrs Walsh had "some legitimate income," it was clear she and her husband "lived a lifestyle which required significant funds, funds that could not have accrued from her meagre income."

Any legitimate income expended by Mrs Walsh in buying the property would not have been available for that use were she not availing of her ill-gotten gains to support her daily life and preferred lifestyle, the judge added.

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