A Limerick-based car dealership was used by persons involved in criminality to launder significant amounts of money generated from the illegal drugs trade, the High Court has heard.
The Criminal Assets Bureau has asked the Court for orders, under Section 3 of the 1996 Proceeds of Crime Act deeming some 111 cars it seized from the motor sales business in March 2019, and some €20,000 in a linked bank account to be the proceeds of crime.
Due to the depreciation of vehicles the cars were auctioned on behalf of the bureau for some €820,000, and the proceeds have remained frozen pending the outcome of CAB's application.
The proceedings are against the company that operated the car sales business, Stephen Bawn Motors Ltd trading as Bawn Motors, Old Ballysimon Road, Limerick and Mr Mike Nash with an address in Newcastle West, Co Limerick.
They both oppose the application to have the proceeds of the vehicle sales deemed the proceeds of crime and deny the CAB's claims regarding the business, which operated out of a portacabin located on a leased lot in Limerick.
Seeking the orders Grainne O'Neill Bl for CAB told the court that following an investigation that commenced in 2017 it is the bureau's case that the company has been used by persons with extensive links to local, national, and international criminals to launder money generated by illegal drug dealing.
Counsel said that money generated from drug dealing was passed through the car sales business, which commenced trading approximately seven years ago, in an attempt to make it look like those funds were derived from a legitimate source of income.
No proper books and records were kept by the firm, counsel said, adding that explanations offered by those associated with the company regarding its operation are not accepted by CAB.
Counsel said it is CAB case that the funds used by the company to buy cars, many of which were purchased in the UK, came from the proceeds of drug dealing.
In addition, counsel said that the company also engaged in other illegal activities including VAT fraud.
Counsel said that it is CAB's case that Mr Nash, who also operates another car sales business and who claims that he is the owner of over 50 of the vehicles seized, was the person in charge of Stephen Bawn Motors.
The business, CAB claims, was fronted by another individual.
Other individuals who CAB alleges were involved in the running of Stephen Bawn Motors Ltd include John O'Donoghue from Rathkeale Co Limerick, who is currently serving a prison sentence for assault.
O'Donoghue is alleged to be an associate of known criminals in the Limerick area, including alleged crime boss and convicted drug dealer Christy Keane, and the Kinahan organised crime gang.
The seizure of the cars was one of the biggest in CAB's history. The cars, including luxury model Mercedes, BMW, and Audi.
In the same operation officers raided two houses in Limerick, a garage in a town in Tipperary, an accountant's office in Limerick City, and two solicitors' offices in Co Limerick.
The hearing of CAB's application, before Mr Justice Alexander Owens, continues and resumes on Thursday.