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Jury convict woman of money laundering

AFTER a trial lasting almost 10 weeks, Maria Bernadetta Jehle, the 47-year-old Swiss woman accused of money-laundering, was convicted yesterday of two charges.

The jury of seven men and five women reached a unanimous verdict after nearly eight and a half hours deliberation including an overnight stay in a Cork hotel.

Ms Jehle, of The Priory, Cobh, was remanded in custody to October 5 for sentencing after a defence application for continued bail was refused by Judge Patrick Moran.

Ms Jehle stands convicted of two very serious charges involving a substantial amount of money and it would be most unusual to grant bail in the circumstances, he said.

The trial, the first of its kind in the State, was the longest in the history of Cork Criminal Circuit Court.

Ms Jehle was convicted of handling DM 500,000 (about IR£200,000) and, in a separate charge, of handling IR£80,000 knowing the money was the proceeds of other persons' criminal activity.

She claimed the money was for a legitimate business deal. She agreed to a property deal because at the time she was in financial difficulty and needed cash. The Irish prosecution had to deliver a two-pronged proof that a business associate of Ms Jehle, Sven Uwe Palisch and her son Peter Jehle had perpetrated a fraud, and that Bernadetta Jehle knew it and laundered their ill-gotten gains. The trial cost the Irish state in the region of £1m including Bernadetta Jehle's legal costs since she applied for, and got, free legal aid.

After conviction, Mr Blaise O'Carroll, SC for the defence, asked for sentence to be adjourned so probation reports could be prepared.

Ms Maureen Clark, SC for the prosecution, said the State would be looking for confiscation of the money involved in the crimes.

I am new to these confiscation orders and will have to take instructions, she said. The question of confiscation will be dealt with on October 5 when Ms Jehle is sentenced.

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Judge Moran thanked the jury for their attendance, saying they had been very attentive and diligent and he was grateful to them.

He exempted them from jury service for life.

The case centred around frauds perpetrated on a German hotelier and businessman and a French dentist, who each wanted loans for business projects.

They were introduced to Mr Palisch (27) an east German national, and Peter Jehle, (29) by seemingly respectable bankers.

The pair, described by the State as crooks, set up meetings at which loans were apparently agreed, but when Klaus Jurgen Wiese, the hotelier, and Patric Gueniot, the dentist, handed over substantial deposits, the money vanished.

They never saw it again. It reappeared in bank accounts held in the AIB in Cahir, Co Tipperary, and the TSB in Midleton, Co Cork, by Ms Jehle, who, the State said, was laundering it for the fraudsters.

She denied this saying the money was intended for genuine business projects of hers and she did not suspect it was dishonestly obtained.