CRIMINALS who buried over €1 million in cash in a County Limerick field must have been sweating in 2009 when the land was covered in several feet of water for weeks.
The location at Portcrusha, Montpelier where gardai recovered the €1.25m over the weekend is located just 400 metres from the Shannon. The area suffered some of the worst flooding in the county when the river burst its banks just over four years ago. “You would think they would have buried it in better land,” said one local this week.
The Limerick Leader can reveal that gardai raided the property last June and uncovered cannabis plants and €50,000 in cash.
“It was kept very quiet at the time. The guards must have known something serious was going on and have been keeping an eye on it.
“The lads must have waited until now to dig it [the cash] up thinking that the garda investigation had died down,” said another local.
A 53-year-old criminal from Limerick city was caught digging the cash up while a man in his forties, who is from the locality, was found in a nearby container drying the cash in a tumble dryer when gardai surprised him. The cash had been buried and wrapped in plastic but some of it had deteriorated before the criminal used a digger to retrieve it from more than six feet underground.
“That quantity of money didn’t appear overnight. Judging by the photographs you can see some of it is worse than others. It was definitely under water, there is no doubt about that. That’s why they were drying it out. Anything you put down in the ground will soak up dampness. You really and truly have to do a very professional job to keep it hidden without it getting wet,” the local said.
The money was brought to Henry Street, where gardai sought advice from the Central Bank on how quickly they can dry the notes.
Gardai have been counting it for days and in some cases had to carefully peel the notes one by one from each other.
The quiet village has been shocked at this kind of activity happening under their noses.
“It is about 200 metres off the Castleconnell to Montpelier road. It’s the talk of the place,” said the local, who adds that the landowner is a popular family man in the community.
And locals hadn’t a clue that gardai were monitoring activities.
“I didn’t see a sign of them, they must have been really undercover,” they said.
Two men who were arrested and questioned about the seizure have been released without charge and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The 53-year-old, who is from the Ballynanty area of Limerick city, is known to gardai and has a number of previous convictions including one for drug dealing more than a decade ago.
He served a six-year-sentence after he was caught with 14kg of cannabis in 2000.
He had managed to keep a low profile since his release until recent months when gardai began their surveillance operation.
The other person is said to be 43 years-old and from the locality.
The seizure was made following a five-month surveillance operation under the supervision of Chief Supt David Sheahan.
A mechanical digger was also found during the operation, which was led by members of the divisional drugs unit.
Gardai are forensically examining the cash in an effort to establish where it came from.
The head of the Limerick garda division, Chief Supt Sheahan, says while investigations into the discovery of the cash are ongoing, the search operation was a success.
“It was an excellent outcome to a difficult and complex investigation,” said Chief Supt Sheahan.