In an under-reported move on Friday, 63 year-old George Hegarty, of Donnybrook Cottages, Douglas, Cork, pleaded guilty to money laundering at his address in February 2005, knowing or believing that the £66,000 Sterling found at his home represented the proceeds of a robbery at the Northern Bank, Belfast in December 2004, or being reckless as to whether that money was or represented such proceeds. As yesterday’s Irish News noted
Mr Hegarty was originally arrested in February 2005 at the same time as Cork financier Ted Cunningham, Dublin businessman Phil Flynn and former Sinn Féin councillor Tom Hanlon.
Mr Hegarty, who said he was a republican and a member of Sinn Féin, was initially released without charge.
However, in May last year he appeared in court alongside Mr Hanlon accused of IRA membership on February 16 2005.
Interestingly, the party references I noted in May 2009 seem to have been edited from the original BBC report, but at least one report from 2005 remains accessible online describing Hegarty as a “Sinn Féin activist”. The iol report noting that Hegarty “is also known as a Sinn Féin member and republican” also remains.
Among those originally arrested in February 2005, Ted Cunningham has been convicted and received a 10 year sentence for attempting to launder more than £3million from the Northern Bank robbery. He has also consented to a confiscation order for €343,520 which he is to pay to the Irish State. His son, who pleaded guilty to one charge, received a 3 year suspended sentence.
Then-30-year-old Don Bullman was arrested at Heuston Station in Dublin in February 2005 with a red Daz washing powder box containing more than €94,000.
Two men from Londonderry arrested with Bullman were released without charge at the time.
Don Blaney was arrested at his home in Passage West, Cork, at the same time as George Hegarty.
In March 2008 Blaney, as noted in this report, was charged with possession of 220 rounds of live ammunition found when gardaí raided his home in February 2005 following a tip-off that a man was burning cash in his back yard.
In April 2009 the 51 year-old Blaney was sentenced to two years for possessing more than 200 rounds of ammunition for a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
Phil Flynn, a respected Government consultant and industrial relations trouble-shooter, was a former director of the company [Chesterton Finance] but has consistently denied any knowledge of a money laundering scam or any wrongdoing.His Dublin offices were raided as part of the widening garda probe in 2005 and, after a miniature pen-gun was found in his desk, he was charged with possession of a firearm and ordered to make a charity donation.He was also forced to resign from his position as chair of the Government’s decentralisation committee, chair of the Bank of Scotland (Ireland), and a board member of VHI.
And with the charge against former Sinn Féin councillor Tom Hanlon unresolved, as far as I can tell, that would seem to be where we are at as a result of “Operation Phoenix, a huge cross-border investigation, involving anti-terrorist units, fraud squads and the Criminal Assets Bureau.”