Monday 21 October 2019

Court freezes €250k accounts of 'housing site protection gang' raised through 'extortion rackets'

High Court told the money was raised through extortion and protection rackets

Modular Housing site at Cherry Orchard Drive, Ballyfermot. Inset Derek ‘Dee Dee’ O’Driscoll
Modular Housing site at Cherry Orchard Drive, Ballyfermot. Inset Derek ‘Dee Dee’ O’Driscoll
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Bank accounts to the value of more than €250,000 controlled by criminal Derek ‘Dee Dee’ O’Driscoll and an associate have been frozen by the Criminal Assets Bureau after the High Court was told the money was raised through extortion and protection rackets.

A mobile home and a horse box have also been seized by CAB, who claimed O’Driscoll and associate David Reilly had amassed property and money through criminal enterprise including drug dealing, tax offences and extortion.

O’Driscoll (46), of Croftwood Park in Ballyfermot, and Reilly (36), of Croftwood Grove in Ballyfermot, had denied the money was raised by criminal means and said it was paid to them for providing the services of a fencing company to three sites being developed for housing in the Ballyfermot and Cherry Orchard areas.

In September 2016 Independent.ie revealed how Dublin City Council launched an investigation into allegations that a notorious gang led by O’Driscoll had been hired to protect a council housing site.

The site has suffered from anti-social behaviour, prompting a decision to hire a security firm.

Dublin City Council investigated claims one of O'Driscoll's key lieutenants was being paid to carry out the security work.

Derek O'Driscoll was jailed in 2013 over his involvement in a violent melee - dubbed the Ballymount Bloodbath - that left one man dead.

At a sitting of the High Court in front of Justice Carmel Stewart yesterday, counsel for CAB, Ben O’Floinn, said that sums of €1,500 a week and €1,200 a week were being paid by construction companies to O’Driscoll and Reilly in order to maintain the safety of workers and equipment at sites, and that this money had been paid through extortion.

The court heard that at three sites there had been anti-social activity and stolen cars being rammed into fences, and that builders had equipment burned out, but that this activity stopped when Reilly approached the developers and said he could have the trouble sorted out.

It is the CAB’s case that O’Driscoll and Reilly were behind the anti-social activity in order to intimidate the developers into paying for it to stop.

Counsel for O'Driscoll and Reilly, John Noonan, denied the money was earned through criminal enterprise but was paid legitimately to the respondents.

He said Reilly could not provide a security service because they could not obtain a licence to do so, but an agreement was made that they would provide a fence protecting and repair service.

Mr Noonan made an application that the money in the bank accounts not be frozen by the CAB, but be used to pay Revenue monies owed to them, as O’Driscoll and Reilly conceded that there were tax matters outstanding.

Counsel for the CAB said the court could legitimately ask why builders and Dublin City Council could view it as appropriate that O’Driscoll and Reilly should be paid so that desperately-needed housing could be built.

“It's not simply that there are suspicious circumstances surrounding extortionate payment where there is a lack of a company, a lack of employees and a website,” said Mr O’Floinn.

He said the payments could be characterised as protection when there was a sudden calming of a situation as soon as the respondents started supplying their services.

Justice Stewart said there was no suggestion that the companies that paid over money engaged in any wrongdoing.

“They wanted safe access and safety for their machinery. The source of the money was legitimate, but the court is in no doubt that the reasons why it was paid had its origins in criminality. They were paying to acquire protection and security,” she said.

Ms Justice Stewart also noted affidavits from senior gardaí who had worked in Ballyfermot as to the history of criminal activity of the respondents, and the allegation that O’Driscoll was the head of a criminal organisation in Ballyfermot and Reilly acted as his enforcer.

She noted that the money in the accounts being frozen were not depleted over the years, but the respondents had continued living lavish lifestyles with foreign holidays.

She rejected the application from O’Driscoll and Reilly that the money in the accounts be used to pay Revenue what is owed to them.

“That would almost be rewarding criminal activity using the proceeds of crime to offset tax debts,” she said.

The application by the CAB to freeze the bank accounts was granted.

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