Criminal Graham 'The Wig' Whelan, who used drugs cash to pay for a penthouse suite at a luxury Dublin hotel and to refurbish his home, has been jailed for 18 months by the Special Criminal Court.
Whelan (39) of Walkinstown Avenue, Walkinstown, Dublin 12, pleaded guilty in July at the three-judge court to participating in the actions of an organised crime group by laundering money and by being in possession of some €1,200 in cash at the Intercontinental Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, on January 31st, 2019.
Whelan also pleaded guilty to paying €2,140 for a three-night stay at the hotel at Room 342, knowing or believing that the money was the proceeds of criminal conduct, contrary to Section 7 of the Criminal Justice (Monday Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act.
When gardaí asked Whelan on the night how he could account for the €1,275 in cash he had in his pocket, he told officers that he had got it from "up his Swiss roll" and told them to keep it.
Whelan also pleaded guilty to possessing an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak gentleman's watch, knowing that the property, valued at €28,000, was purchased with the proceeds of crime.
Father-of-four Whelan was granted bail by the non-jury court in March, after judges considered the suicide of his partner as being the "crucial factor" in his application.
On Monday at the non-jury court, presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said a four-year headline sentence was appropriate on the money laundering and the two proceeds of crime offences. He said the court would give Whelan a 25 per cent discount for his early guilty plea.
Mr Justice Hunt said Whelan had five previous drug convictions and had been sentenced to six years imprisonment for possession of €1.5 million worth of cocaine and ecstasy tablets, when he was caught with them aged 17.
The judge said Whelan also had convictions for violent disorder, criminal damage and assault causing harm, for which he was jailed for three years.
The judge also noted that Whelan had been convicted of grievous bodily harm in Spain for which he received a two-year suspended sentence and had 33 convictions in total.
Mr Justice Hunt said Whelan told gardaí he paid €8,000 using his credit card for the diamond-encrusted watch, which was valued at €28,000. The judge said on the night of his arrest on January 31st, 2019, Whelan's legal team acknowledged their client was "truculent" with gardaí but afterwards he was easy to deal with and that he had admitted to an alcohol difficulty.
The judge noted that Whelan has four children and that his wife died by suicide in 2020, making him their "primary carer", which "tragically" changed his life.
Mr Justice Hunt said the watch was "very valuable", that Whelan's presence in the penthouse was "highly suspicious" and that he had a record of serious offending. The judge said that by 2019 Whelan had not desisted from criminal behaviour but that he did suffer "an enormous personal tragedy".
The judge noted the court had previously heard that, during a search of Whelan's home, gardaí discovered that "an extremely high standard" of home improvements had been undertaken to refurbish the property.
However, Mr Justice Hunt said the offences came at the "lower" end of the scale and that due to his co-operation and plea of guilty, Whelan qualified for the full 25 per cent discount on a sentence of four years.
The judge said that while Whelan had "a tragic change in personal circumstances" and that the position of carer was "thrust upon him", this did not mean he could avoid a custodial sentence.
Mr Justice Hunt then suspended 18 months of the three-year sentence for four years on the money laundering and proceeds of crime offences. He then jailed Whelan for three months on each of the drug-possession charges with all sentences to run concurrently.
Mr Michael Bowman SC, defending, asked the court to put a stay on Whelan's sentence until the New Year due to family considerations but Mr Justice Hunt said that it would not be the right approach "in the round" to approve the application. The prosecution had objected to any deferral of the sentence.
Mr Justice Hunt added that if the case had been contested, Whelan would have been given a sentence of four years imprisonment.