Cocaine-abusing banker laundered cash for drug gang
A Dublin banker and cocaine user laundered tens of thousands of euro for a criminal gang because he feared for his life, a court has been told.
Former bank official Fiach Punch claimed he had been forced to open an account for laundering money as he was in fear for his life after being assaulted over a cocaine debt.
Punch (38) opened up the Bank of Ireland account in late 2015 and a cheque for more than €19,000 was later lodged into it.
He claimed he never saw the cheque, but simply opened the account and handed over the ATM card and PIN to another individual.
Punch claimed he was living in fear at the time because he had been assaulted and his ribs had been broken over the debt.
He also claimed that unnamed individuals knew he had a history of working in a bank and thought they could use his knowledge of banking systems.
The defendant, of Mayeston Crescent in St Margaret's, was found guilty before Swords District Court of lodging a cheque to Bank of Ireland in Malahide, which could have been the proceeds of criminal conduct.
The incident took place on a date unknown between November 30 and December 22, 2015.
Detective Garda Brian Pentony said a cheque in the sum of €19,175 was issued by a medical equipment company on February 23, 2015. The cheque was sent by post but never reached its destination.
The court heard that it was subsequently lodged into the account which Punch had opened.
Defence lawyer Patrick Jackson said Punch, who has no previous convictions, was a vulnerable person and that he was acting under duress when he opened the bank account, as he had been assaulted two weeks earlier.
Punch told gardaí that a person had come over from the UK and wanted him to open the account. He also provided this individual with his ATM card and PIN.
He said he did not know how much the cheque was for and accepted he thought what happened was "a bit dubious".
The bank discovered that the cheque had been altered and no money was ever paid out.
Mr Jackson said Punch had previously worked in Ulster Bank but was now on disability. He asked the judge to leave Punch without a conviction.
However, Judge Dermot Dempsey did not accept that Punch was under duress and found him guilty of money laundering. He ordered a probation report and adjourned sentencing to October.