Trial hears of off-camera interview

At the time Mick noted that Phil Flynn, former Vice President of Sinn Fein and confidante of then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was not included among those charged in connection with the Garda investigation which led to Ted Cunningham’s trial on money-laundering charges and he has publicly denied any involvement. He was, though, a non-executive director of Cunningham’s money-lending company Chesterton Finance. Whether he was on Cunningham’s Christmas card list isn’t clear although Cunningham has met several other high profile figures. But the Irish Times reports today

During the interview at the Bridewell Garda station in Cork on February 18th, 2005, he named Mr Flynn as the main person behind the attempts to launder money. “Look, Phil Flynn is the boss behind everything,” said Mr Cunningham during the off-camera interview with Det Chief Supt Tony Quilter and Det Garda Jim Fitzgerald, according to a Garda transcript of the interview. Details of the transcript were given yesterday by Det Chief Supt Quilter on the 18th day of Mr Cunningham’s trial for money-laundering offences before a jury of seven men and five women and Judge Con Murphy at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

The trial has already heard the prosecution’s opening statement and of the discovery of the cash. They have also seen video interviews with Cunningham including one in which he talked about the Bulgarians, but refused to talk about Tom Hanlon – the Irish News has more on that. [subs req]

But it was during a Garda interview off-camera, at Cunningham’s request, that – as the Irish Times reported – the prosecution allege a different story emerged

Det Chief Supt Quilter said at one stage during the off-camera interview, Cunningham breathed a sigh, appeared to hesitate and said: “Look, Phil Flynn is the boss behind everything, Catherine is the contact… Phil and Catherine were organising everything. I raised concerns with Phil that the money was from the Northern Bank robbery. He said he would be in contact. I told him I could not handle £5m. And eventually agreed on 5. I later told him I might move 10 or 11.”

And the Irish Times reports

Det Chief Supt Quilter said Mr Cunningham told them: “When I opened the first bag and saw the Ulster Bank notes, I knew well. I rang Catherine and told her I needed to meet her and she said ‘the boys will sort it out’ – not to panic.” Mr Cunningham went on to tell gardaí Ms Nelson told him: “You are selling a pit – it all has to do with selling the pit, don’t worry.” He “knew damn well what it [the money] was”, said Det Chief Supt Quilter.

Mr Cunningham told gardaí the Bulgarian plan to buy the sand pit was true but the deal was never done. “I came up with the idea to pretend I had a buyer for the pit. In effect I was laundering the money from the Northern Bank job by buying the pit and putting it in a bogey Bulgarian company name.”

And from the Belfast Telegraph

The trial has already heard that Mr Flynn — the former Irish boss of Bank of Scotland — had taken a 10pc holding in Mr Cunningham’s company, Chesterton Finance. His involvement boosted the profile of the Cork-based company. Mr Flynn introduced Mr Cunningham to Catherine Nelson, a freelance consultant who was a Kildare native now living in Malta, who worked in Libya and was the contact with some Bulgarians who wanted to do business with Chesterton Finance.

Mr Cunningham initially insisted to gardai when they seized £2.3m in a locked cupboard in his home that it was cash from these Bulgarians to purchase a gravel pit at Shinrone, Co Offaly.

However, in a later Garda interview, in which he declined to name individuals, he said the Bulgarian deal was allowing him to launder cash via “a bogey Bulgarian name”.

The sterling arose when he received an earlier call asking him to “offload … a couple of million”.

“I received the call from someone I know but who I am not prepared to name because of fear for myself and my family,” Cunningham told gardai. “At that stage all I knew was that it was not legitimate.”

At Irish Election, P O’Neill wonders, “is it too unkind to speculate that the relaxed ethical attitude at the top of the Irish banking system is not a million miles removed from the practices now being exposed in the Northern Bank laundering trial?”

The trial is expected to continue to Easter.

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