A FINANCIER who laundered some of the proceeds of the 2004 Northern Bank robbery has received a five year suspended prison sentence.
Timothy ‘Ted’Cunningham (65) was also ordered to resign as a director of his finance company and not to work in the Irish financial sector for a period of five years.
Cunningham was sentenced after he pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering on the second week of his Cork Circuit Criminal Court trial.
The robbery – on December 20 2004 – is the biggest bank raid in Irish history with a total of St£26.5m being stolen (€32m).
Cunningham was originally convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison in April 2009 for laundering the Northern Bank robbery proceeds following a 10 week trial.
But that conviction was later quashed on the basis of a problem with the specific type of warrant used by Gardai.
A retrial was ordered which opened before Judge Sean O’Donnabhain on February 13.
Cunningham served three years and two months in prison but had to be hospitalised a total of 16 times during that period because of a serious medical condition.
Cunningham of Woodbine Lodge, Farran, Co Cork originally faced a total of nine charges of laundering some of the proceeds of the Donegall Square robbery.
However, in the second week of his trial be pleaded guilty to two separate counts.
These were that he laundered St£104,040 by transferring it to John Douglas on January 15 2005 at Tullamore, Co Offaly.
The second count was that he laundered St£175,360 by transferring it to John Sheehan on February 7 2005 at Ballincollig, Co Cork.
As a result of the February 7 transfer he obtained three cheques to a value of €200,000.
The trial heard John Douglas say that Cunningham called to him with two bags of sterling amounting to £100,000.
He was informed that the cash was the proceeds of a property sale.
Mr Douglas said the cash was placed in a wardrobe in a room over the family shop.
John Sheehan said Cunningham gave him St£175,000 as security for a loan of €200,000 for a period of six to eight weeks.
Mr Sheehan owns Cul na Greine House in Ballincollig, Co Cork where Cunningham’s financial firm had offices in 2005.
Mr Sheehan said that Cunningham explained he needed a loan of €200,000 for a short period.
“My response was: I cannot do it (if) you cannot give me security,” he said.
“He (Cunningham) told me he could give me Sterling. I said: why don’t you put the Sterling in the bank? I didn’t really want to give him money. He said he needed Sterling to pay for a conservatory he was buying in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Sheehan said he eventually agreed that if Cunningham gave him Sterling as security he would lend him the €200,000 he required.
“On February 7, Ted arrived in my office…he carried two plastic bags….two Blarney Woollen Mills hold-all plastic bags. He said: ‘I have the St£175,000’. There was British Sterling made up in various bundles. I looked through it to make sure it was not paper but I didn’t count it. I put it in a walk-in safe. I was the only one with the key,” Mr Sheehan said.
The developer then gave Cunningham three Euro cheques made out for €100,000, €44,000 and €56,000.
Defence counsel, Hugh Hartnett SC, said Cunningham was "approached and used...he accepts it was reckless."
Gardai stressed that Cunningham had no subversive involvement but was reckless as to where the Sterling he had received came from.
The court heard his job was to 'mingle' the Sterling with legitimate currency before handing it back to those who supplied it.
Gardai told the trial that they believed the Northern Bank robbery was the work of a highly-organised and ruthless IRA gang.
Judge Sean O'Donnabhain said that in light of Cunningham's age, his health, his plea and his willingness to resign from his financial firm, he would impose a five years suspended prison sentence.
He said the aggravating factors were the manner in which Cunningham used his financial expertise and then involved innocent business associates and clients who had no idea of what was happening.
The amount of Sterling involved in the two counts to which Cunningham pleaded guilty (St£200,000) was just one-tenth the amount at the centre of the 10 week trial in 2009.