Firefighters save €485,000 in cash from head shop
FIREFIGHTERS tackling a blaze at a 'head shop' rescued almost half a million euro in cash from a safe in the basement before the building was partly demolished.
It is understood that Jim Bellamy, the owner of the Nirvana shop on Dublin's Capel Street, informed the firefighters about the money after they arrived at the scene on Friday morning.
The fire wasn't fully extinguished until that evening but the money was saved. The cash is believed to be takings from the lucrative trade in so-called "legal highs".
Gardai are now in possession of the €485,000, with the owner's consent.
Investigations are continuing into the cause of the fire that destroyed three shops, with an initial examination indicating that a flammable substance in one of the premises may have been to blame.
There was no indication of an explosion, but Mr Bellamy said that he believed the fire was started maliciously as a result of recent publicity about the spread of head shops and possible health effects of items sold.
But Mr Bellamy was unavailable for comment yesterday on the large sum of money held in the safe in his shop and staff at another of his stores in Dublin indicated he would not be commenting further on the issue.
There are 15 head shops with the Nirvana logo in Ireland, but 12 of them are run as franchises. The latest accounts for Mr Bellamy's company, Nirvana Headshops, do not make clear how profitable the shops are as small firms can avoid publishing a detailed balance sheet.
However, in a recent interview, Mr Bellamy said that his last VAT return, covering two months of business, was €83,000. "My shops are generating big returns for the Exchequer," he said at the time.
A rival company -- Irish Head Shop Enterprises, which has a store in Dublin's Temple Bar -- made a €1.68m profit in 2008.
The Government is considering legislation outlawing certain substances sold legally from head shops.
Last year, the chemical benzylpiperazine, which was in several "party pills" on the market, was made illegal. And in 2006, head shops were banned from selling magic mushrooms.
Meanwhile, Capel Street is due to reopen to traffic this morning after the fire, but Dublin Fire Brigade has said that the three shops -- including a souvenir store and a sex shop -- would have to be demolished.