Monday 21 October 2019

Former psychic convicted of theft and money laundering of €1.6m

Simon Gold
Simon Gold

Brion Hoban

A former psychic has been convicted by a jury of the theft and money laundering of €1.6 million.

Simon Gold (54) with an address of Augharan, Aughavas, Co. Leitrim, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 22 charges including money laundering, theft, deception and control of false instruments on dates between January 1, 2010 and October 22, 2012.

After over two weeks of evidence, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on 20 counts after deliberating for over 12 hours.

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty on a single count of deception relating to €28,000 transferred by Justin Burke, a farmer from Co.Galway, to a bank account linked to Gold.

Judge Martin Nolan thanked the jury for their service. He remanded Gold in custody and adjourned the matter for sentencing on July 31, next.

During the trial, the jury heard that Gold represented himself as a highly qualified financier, merchant banker or financial consultant.

It was the State's case that four Irish men who were unable to secure bank loans as a result of the global financial crisis approached Gold seeking loans of large sums of money.

Lorcan Staines SC, prosecuting, told the jury that in 2011 these men were deceived into transferring what they believed were down payments into bank accounts controlled by Gold in order to secure the loans.

The men gave evidence of transferring a total of €28,000 and £50,000 into bank accounts linked to Gold. None of the loans every came through for them..

Kurt Lauridsen, a Danish businessman, said he transferred two tranches of €800,000 in October, 2012, into what he thought was a bank account controlled by himself and his lawyer, but was in fact an Ulster Bank account in Dublin controlled by Gold.

He said he was later contacted by gardaí and informed that the account had been frozen.

In interview with gardaí, Gold agreed that he had dispersed some of the funds into various accounts, including into an account in the name of Niall O'Donoghue.

The jury heard that Gold also accepted he used the names Simon Gold, Simon Gould, Simon Magnier and Niall O'Donoghue and acknowledged he is responsible for an Ulster Bank account in the name of Anglo Irish Global Ltd.

According to the minutes of a meeting between Gold and Ulster Bank officials after his bank account was frozen, Gold said he had done nothing wrong or criminal. He said that “if this was the case he would be the stupidest money launderer ever”.

The jury heard Gold agreed during interview with gardaí that he used a false ESB bill to open the account for Anglo Irish Global Ltd. He also agreed in interview he used a false UK driving licence to purchase a computer from Harvey Norman.

Detective Garda Deirdre Heenehan testified that during their investigations gardaí seized a laptop which contained a number of audio recordings which she said were relevant to the case.

On a recording made on October 15, 2012, which was played to the jury, two men can be heard speaking. One of the men, who is referred to as “Niall” by the other, tells the other that the “first flag that's raised we're fucked” and if they freeze the account “we get nothing”.

“Niall” can be heard remarking how many times that has happened in the past and that it only happens “if we get greedy”. He can be heard saying that there would be nothing worse than “having been so close and yet so far”.

Mr Staines told the jury that it was the prosecution's case that “Niall” is in fact Gold. He told the jury that Gold had “conned real people out of real money in real life”.

In his closing speech Dominic McGinn SC, defending, said that it appears that Gold was being used as much as Mr Lauridsen as he was the one who ended up “carrying the can” because the account which the funds were transferred to was linked to him.

Mr McGinn said if his client was the “criminal mastermind” that the prosecution alleges then surely he would have used a bank account that was not connected to him.

Judge Nolan had earlier in the trial directed the jury to enter a verdict of not guilty on the final count on the indictment which charged Gold with unlawful use of a computer.

During the trial, Justin Burke gave evidence that he was a farmer from Co. Galway. He said he was involved in dairy farming, beef and “peddling horses”.

Mr Burke said he needed funding to renegotiate loans of over €30 million from three banks which he took out to purchase land. He said he needed to prove he had access to €800,000 in order to secure a loan of €15 million and was told about someone who could provide proof of funds for a payment of €28,000.

Mr Burke said his sister transferred €28,000 to the bank account of Belgravia Consultants UK Ltd. He said he received a document bearing the signature of Simon Magnier stating that he and his father had over €961,000 in an Irish Nationwide Bank account.

He said he knew the document was fictitious as they never had an account with Irish Nationwide Bank. He said the loan never came through and they never got the €28,000 back.

Eamonn O'Toole gave evidence that he was a dairy farmer in Co. Tipperary and that he was seeking a loan in 2011 to prepare for the abolition of milk quotas. He said his friend Jody Ryan gave him the phone number of Simon Magnier and told him Magnier was willing to invest in projects.

Mr O'Toole said that he wanted a loan of €250,000, but Magnier said he did not do loans of that size and offered a loan of €1 million instead. He said he was required to transfer £10,000 to Anglo Irish Global Ltd and he did so.

He said he understood that a man named Niall O'Donoghue was the person who would manage his loan, but he never spoke to O'Donoghue and that it “would be easier to get through to Donald Trump”. He said the loan never came through.

Regarding the £10,000, he said if he had given it to St Vincent de Paul he would feel happy about it and the whole situation had been an education where he went from “infants to six class” in a short time.

Frank Gleeson gave evidence that he was a developer living outside Athy, Co Kildare, and that in 2008 he became involved in construction in Portugal.

Mr Gleeson said he bought a site in Portugal and raised €1 million from a Portuguese bank to start building ten apartments, with the intention being to raise further funds by selling them and then building more apartments. He said he did not sell any and the bank started looking for repayments.

He said he needed £300,000 in order to secure a loan of £3 million. He had a conversation with Gold who said he could secure the funding for a bridging loan provided he pay a deposit of £30,000 up front.

Mr Gleeson said that some time after transferring the money, Gold told him another man had run off with the money and that he going to pay him back £10,000 out of his own pocket. He said he never got the remaining £20,000 back.

Jody Ryan gave evidence that he was involved in the quarry business in Limerick and that his business was doing badly between 2008 and 2011. He said he could not get a loan from an Irish bank due to the recession.

Mr Ryan said he got the phone number of a man named Simon Magnier and through him he sought a loan of €4 million from Anglo Irish Global Ltd. He said he had borrowings of €15 million and was trying to pay back the banks.

He said that Magnier told him he first had to pay a £10,000 deposit “to get the loan started”. He said that he paid that deposit, but “not a euro” of the loan ever came through and that Magnier became difficult to contact afterward.

Mr Ryan said that he got in contact with Magnier once or twice after making the payment and Magnier said it would be all sorted out. He said Magnier sounded like a bank manager on the phone and he thought he was going to solve his problems at the time.

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