Gardai confiscate €100,000 from 'key player' in drug gang
GARDAI have been given the go-ahead to confiscate more than €100,000 they seized from a man described as a key player in a drug-trafficking gang.
The High Court approved the move after a major operation led by the Criminal Assets Bureau against the target.
It followed a lengthy investigation by detectives from the Organised Crime Unit, which is part of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, into the criminal activities of Thomas Stokes.
Armed officers stopped a taxi being driven by Stokes (34) on the Fonthill Road, Clondalkin, in west Dublin, in January last year.
The officers searched the vehicle and found cash totalling €105,950. It was contained in a black holdall bag in a number of labelled white envelopes and was in various denominations.
This resulted in joint follow-up inquiries by the bureau and the organised crime unit into the source of the cash haul and the links between drug traffickers and Stokes, who has an address at St Ronan's Crescent, Clondalkin.
The inquiries culminated in an application to the High Court to confiscate the money under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996/ 2005.
Gardai argued that Stokes was an integral part of an organised crime gang, suspected of being involved in drug trafficking and based in west Dublin.
Making the application, bureau officers also submitted that Stokes was involved in the movement of cash and drugs, that the money seized belonged to this gang and was intended to have been used as part of a drug-trafficking transaction.
Granting the order to the bureau, High Court judge Mr Justice Kevin Feeney ruled that he deemed the cash to be representative of the proceeds of criminal conduct.
The judge gave permission for the confiscation of the money and the money will now be handed to the Exchequer.
This was the latest in a series of bureau successes in the High Court in recent months against senior members of gangs.
A senior garda officer told the Irish Independent last night: "Apart from arresting and bringing criminal charges against known members of these OCGs (organised crime gangs), we also want to hit them where it really hurts – in their pockets.
"Our national units, backed up by local personnel, will continue to crack down on the gangsters who are making money out of the misery of their victims," he added.