Sunday 17 December 2017

Minister for Justice’s brother-in-law admits stealing €1,700 in holiday fraud

Howard Danker arriving at Dun Laoghaire District Court
Howard Danker arriving at Dun Laoghaire District Court

Andrew Phelan

THE brother-in-law of Justice Minister Alan Shatter has admitted stealing more than €1,700 from a woman after agreeing to rent a holiday apartment for her in Spain.

Howard Danker (46) kept the money in his own personal account and failed to repay it when plans to secure the apartment fell through.

A court heard the theft had "not started off as a criminal enterprise" but the money was not in his account when it was time to return it to the victim.

Danker, who was involved in a foreign holiday business, was left without a criminal record after he paid compensation.

A court heard he was now in "difficult" circumstances and living in a bedsit.

The father-of-two, with an address at Sundrive Road, Crumlin pleaded guilty to two counts of theft on dates in April and August last year,

Danker, who is the brother of Mr Shatter's wife Carol, would not comment on the case as he left Dun Laoghaire District Court today.

When the case was called Sgt Peadar McCann handed evidence of the accused's arrest, charge and caution in to court by certificate.

He said the DPP had consented to the charges being dealt with at District Court level

Sgt McCann said that between April 3 and August 8, 2012 the victim contacted the accused to arrange renting an apartment for her family in Marbella in Spain. There were two payments made on two different dates - €750 on April 3, 2012 and €1,013 on August 8. The total was €1,763.

These payments were to Danker's personal account to secure the accommodation. However, this was never done and the money was not returned to the injured party.

Defence Solicitor Michael Staines said Mr Danker was married and separated. He had no previous convictions and had fully co-operated with the garda investigation.

There had been "no intention to misappropriate" the money but he allowed it to go into his own account and when it came time to pay it back, "the money was not there".

It "didn't start off as a criminal enterprise", Mr Staines said.

The accused had entered a very early guilty plea, he added.

Mr Danker's circumstances were "difficult"; he was living in a bedsit and attending a doctor for depression.

He had full compensation in court, which he had raised through friends and which was handed over to the sergeant.

Judge Lindsay applied the Probation Act after noting that the defendant had no previous convictions. This means Danker will be left without a criminal record.

The judge also granted free legal aid after a statement of Danker's financial means was handed into court and there were no garda objections.

Mr Danker, wearing a charcoal-coloured suit with a light blue shirt and red patterned tie did not address the court during today's hearing.

Mr Danker was first arrested and questioned by gardai last March before being released without charge.

He was further interviewed at Dun Laoghaire Garda Station on May 28 where he was charged. He had been on bail from the station since then.

Mr Danker has been involved in a foreign property business in Spain as well as a wedding company. The former antiques dealer had lived in Marbella but recently returned to Ireland.

In March, 2011, mum-of-two Carol Shatter (57) was fined €300 and disqualified from driving for a year at Dublin District Court.

At the time, Mr Shatter was involved in negotiations with the Labour party in advance of the formation of the current Government in which he was appointed Minister for Justice.

Separately, it emerged last month that Mr Shatter was stopped by gardai at a checkpoint five years ago on Pembroke Street in Dublin and asked to give a breath sample, but claimed he could not do so because of his asthma.

Gardai later said there is no report on the incident and that his account is consistent with what they believe happened.

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