The partner of a slain gangland figure cannot halt a Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) application to freeze more than €92,000 in bank balances and cash as the proceeds of crime, the High Court has ruled.
Marlene Walsh was appointed by the court to represent the estate of Lucan fitness instructor John Gibson, who was murdered in a gangland shooting in Tallaght on September 18th, 2017. He died intestate which meant their two children became entitled to their estate and the mother, as their guardian, was found to be entitled to represent the estate.
In November 2020, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) applied to the court for an order seeking to freeze as the proceeds of crime some €83,000 in current and savings accounts in Leixlip and College Green branches of Bank of Ireland and sums of €5,440 and €4,130 in cash which were seized from Gibson in December 2015 and September 2016.
Proceeds of crime
Mr Justice Alexander Owens said he accepted the belief evidence of Det Supt Michael Gubbins that this money represented proceeds of crime or was acquired with proceeds of crime. The judge said the evidence established money had its origins in drug dealing.
"John Gibson was a drug dealer who was involved in organised crime in West Dublin", the judge said.
"While his convictions were minor, garda intelligence associated him with significant drugs related activity and with major criminals".
Investigations of Gibson’s financial affairs disclosed "no plausible legitimate source" for the cash seized, he said.
Gibson's explanation that the money taken in December 2015 was earnings generated from employment by his mother as a fitness instructor at “Body Fitness Studio” in Lucan was "unbelievable", he said.
The cash seized from him when he was stopped in his car at Balgaddy Road in Lucan in September 2016 also related to drug dealing, he said.
Evidence also established the credit balances in the two Gibson bank accounts were sourced from criminal activities and were indirectly proceeds of crime or were accumulated with property which, directly or indirectly, constituted proceeds of crime, he said.
Many lodgements to the account of Body Fitness Studio Ltd, "which supposedly employed John Gibson", did not represent trading receipts, he said
Payments to Gibson purporting to be salary did not represent genuine earnings. While the gym did operate as a business, many of its receipts came in the form of large cash lodgements from various locations around the State which were far from Lucan and Gibson’s rates of pay exceeded those usually paid to fitness instructors, he said.
Money launding exercise
It was difficult to come to any conclusion other than that the arrangement under which Gibson was ostensibly employed and receiving a wage from the gym was in fact a money laundering exercise, the judge said.
The main issue in an application brought by Ms Walsh in relation to that money was whether the CAB proceedings were statute barred (brought outside time limits), the judge said.
Ms Walsh argued the proceedings were time barred under the Civil Liability Act of 1961.
The judge said the case she made invited him "to apply a limitation period to assist dishonesty".
In general, he said, the policy of the law is that limitation periods afford procedural defences and cannot be availed of to assist dishonesty.
Ms Walsh's argument also misconceived the nature of the remedies given by the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The only involvement of his estate in this application was because of the potential interest of that estate in the money if it is not established that it derived from proceeds of crime or if some special factors exist which would satisfy the court that to make an order under proceeds of crime legislation would cause serious risk of injustice, he said.
Ms Walsh had not succeeded in making out any defence to the CAB application, he said. Nothing had been presented to the court at this stage which indicated that any serious risk of injustice would result from the making of an order freezing the monies under s.3(1) of the 1996 Proceeds of Crime Act.