Couple in court battle over bid to seize home 'funded by crime'
A MAN and his wife are fighting a Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) bid to seize their family home because it is allegedly the proceeds of crime, the High Court was told yesterday.
Andrew Wall (34) allegedly threatened the man selling them the house at Piercetown, Newbridge, Co Kildare, when the sale went "horribly wrong".
The vendor was allegedly left €100,000 short on the purchase price because Mr Wall reneged on an "under the table" deal he had proposed, the court was told.
The CAB claims Mr Wall is a member of a Traveller crime gang known as the "Cock Wall" clan, which travels the country committing robberies and burglaries.
He has 11 previous convictions, including possession of firearms and manslaughter for which he served a six-year prison term and one for possession of stolen jewellery following that imprisonment.
Mr Wall and his wife Ellen are opposing the CAB's application to forfeit to the State their home, an 18-carat diamond ring worth €6,100, a VW Golf car, and cash sums of €10,900 and stg£1,180 which were seized in a search of their home on July 6, 2007.
The CAB claims the couple have no visible means of support but are exhibiting signs of wealth including the regular purchase of cars using fictitious names and the decoration of their home to a very high standard which is consistent with having a readily available source of cash.
A forensic accountant has examined their bank accounts which showed €416,462 had been put through them between 2002 and 2007 while they have had no known sources of income, the High Court was told.
Former CAB chief John O'Mahoney, now assistant Garda Commissioner, told the court the vendor of the Piercetown house was later too scared to make a complaint about the missing €100,000 because he had been threatened by Andrew Wall. It was three to four years later before the vendor made a statement, and then only after he was approached by the CAB about the matter.
In an affidavit to the court, another CAB officer said the man who sold the Piercetown house to the Walls in 2004 agreed a deal that Mr Wall would officially pay €140,000 and give him a further €100,000 in cash. However, the deal went "horribly wrong".
The vendor was going through a divorce and was in arrears on his mortgage when Mr Wall suggested the €100,000 "under the table" deal.
Mr Wall was ready to hand over the €100,000 in €50 notes just before the closing of the sale at the vendor's solicitor's office, the CAB officer said. The paperwork was not ready and a second closing date was set up.
On the second occasion, the vendor's ex-boss agreed to go to a hotel with Mr Wall where the bag of money was counted while the vendor went to his solicitor's office to close the sale. After the vendor completed the sale, he got a call from his ex-boss to say Wall and a man who had accompanied him had "disappeared" with the money, the CAB officer said.
Ellen Wall told the court yesterday that the price agreed for the Piercetown house was €140,000, not €240,000 as the CAB had claimed. She knew nothing about the other €100,000 and denied she was present at the meetings where this money was supposed to be handed over.
She said the bulk of the €140,000 purchase price, which was also paid in cash, came from a €118,000 wedding gift from her great aunt Bridget Delaney. She believed her aunt had accumulated the money through a lifetime of selling second-hand clothes and bric-a-brac in Ballyfermot, Dublin.
She agreed that before buying the house in Piercetown, she was receiving €950 a month in rent allowance from the health board but had not declared that she had the €118,000, which she kept in a wardrobe of her rented house.
She said the diamond ring was an engagement ring given to her by her husband.
She said a €10,000 watch she bought for her mother came from a €63,000 personal injuries settlement she got in 1995. She said an €8,000 receipt for cosmetic surgery from Clane hospital, found in her home during the CAB search, was "private and personal".
The hearing concluded yesterday and Mr Justice Kevin Feeney said he would hear legal submissions next month.