Tuesday 21 August 2018

Brothel keeper Martin Morgan moves to appeal confiscation order of assets worth €252k

Timothy Laffey appeared for sentencing at Mullingar Circuit Court sitting in Tullamore
Timothy Laffey appeared for sentencing at Mullingar Circuit Court sitting in Tullamore

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A brothel keeper, who claimed he had spent the benefits of his criminal activity on business expenses, has moved to appeal a confiscation order of €252,000.

Martin Morgan (53), with an address on Highbury Road, London, had pleaded not guilty to organising prostitution and running a brothel at a Bachelor's Walk apartment in the city centre on dates between August 22 to October 10, 2005. He was found guilty by a jury and jailed for three years in 2008.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court subsequently granted an application to confiscate €252,908 in assets based on a calculation of what the net profit of the business was likely to have been during the offending period.

The Court of Appeal heard today that the State at one stage alleged that the brothel was generating income in the millions of euro per annum.

Morgan's barrister, Paul Greene SC, told the three-judge court that he took issue with the calculations. He said the €252,000 figure was based on testimony from women working in the premises about the number of shifts they worked and their hourly rates. That was multiplied by “footfall” and certain discarded items over the course of two months. It was all “very busy,” Mr Greene said, and the authorities “hung their hat” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Mr Greene submitted that the onus was on the state to establish, on the balance of probabilities, that Morgan had assets available to him that had a hope of being realised.

However, he said Morgan had nothing that was realisable because he had spent the entire benefit realised by him.

Morgan outlined that he had incurred business expenses arising from the activity of brothel keeping, the court heard.

Mr Justice John Hedigan remarked that it was a courageous assertion. Mr Greene asked if the judge had said “outrageous” but upon being corrected, Mr Greene said “we'll stick with that" (courageous assertion).

Mr Greene said Morgan had engaged with the authorities and no steps were taken to question the veracity of what he was stating.

He said Morgan provided significant information to the authorities including the amount of money he paid to his lawyers. In an affidavit, he outlined the name of the company, what he earned on a weekly basis, his tax number, VAT number, business address, expenses, three bank accounts he had in his name and the fact he was not challenging the source of the money.

Mr Justice John Edwards remarked that Morgan merely asserted that he had nothing left. In so far as he asserted that he had spent it all, that he didn't have “money under a mattress or wherever”, was it not incumbent on him to provide some evidence of that spending, the judge asked.

He said the court was entitled to take the view that Morgan “would say that, wouldn't he”. In those circumstances, if his evidence was to be regarded as cogent and reliable, it required corroboration and the best corroboration he could provide was some sort of paper trail, the judge remarked.

In that regard, the court heard that Morgan always “paid in cash” incurring expenses travelling between London and Dublin staying in the Radisson and other hotels.

Mr Greene asked how Morgan could have shown that he had no assets. He said the onus never shifted from the State and central to the appeal was the question of where the burden of proof rested.

He said the judge who made the confiscation order was obliged to make a determination as to whether he had evidence in relation to the amount that ought to be confiscated.

He said the consequences of not complying with the order were of great significance for Morgan. He faces up to three years in jail for failing to comply.

Counsel for the State, Patrick McGrath SC, said the onus to prove clearly rested on Morgan. He said the legislation contemplated offenders making proceeds of crime difficult to trace.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the court would reserve its judgment.

On an earlier occasion, the Court had granted legal aid to Morgan for the purpose of this appeal.

His barrister, Diana Stuart BL, told the court on that occasion that her client was “a man of straw” at this stage and inability to pursue his appeal had very serious consequences. He's liable to be imprisoned for three years if he doesn't pay, she said.

Fergal Foley BL, for the State, had opposed the application for legal aid. If the state were to concede that Morgan was entitled to legal aid, Mr Foley said it would effectively concede that he doesn't have criminal assets – and therefore the appeal.

Mr Justice George Birmingham had said Morgan was found guilty of the offence of brothel keeping following a “very lengthy” 19 day trial in which he funded his own representation of solicitor and two counsel. Legal aid was granted.

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