Mystery of seized digger linked to organised crime

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Reporter:

Gerard Fitzgibbon

A RANDOM traffic stop in Newcastle West more than two years ago ended up forming part of a major international investigation into money laundering, bank robbery and stolen cars, the local court has heard.

A RANDOM traffic stop in Newcastle West more than two years ago ended up forming part of a major international investigation into money laundering, bank robbery and stolen cars, the local court has heard.

The seizure by gardai of a flatbed lorry and digger that had been stopped at St Mary’s Road, Newcastle West in May 2010 was the subject of one of the most complex and extensive cases heard in the local court in recent memory last Thursday.

The hearing centred on an attempt by Vehicle Tech Ltd of Ashbourne, Meath and its director Fran McGuinness to claim ownership of the vehicles, which remain impounded by gardai.

However the application led to a detailed and often fractious three-and-a-half-hour hearing involving State solicitor Aidan Judge, which heard evidence of asset seizures, “bogus” companies created by people who “didn’t exist”, frozen bank accounts and the alleged laundering of hundreds of thousands of euros.

Mr McGuinness, whose business has previously been raided by the Criminal Assets Bureau, claimed that he had legitimately purchased the digger from a company, Tony Coogan Plant Hire Ltd.

However the court heard from gardai that Tony Coogan Ltd is fake company set up by a person who does not exist, which has been the subject of a “complex investigation” with police in Belgium relating to the theft of ATM machines, the pan-European sale of stolen cars and the laundering of hundreds of thousands of euro of money.

See the Limerick Leader broadsheet edition, in shops today, for the full, in-depth story and background to this case.