Wednesday, November 16, 2022

High Court reporters

The High Court has ruled that assets linked to convicted drug dealer and DJ Adam Keatinge, including his Co Kildare home, cash and several gold bars, are the proceeds of crime.

Mr Justice Alexander Owens described Keatinge as a person who was “heavily involved in criminal operations” including the planned importation and supply of cocaine.

He had spent time in prison in 2012 after he pleaded guilty to possession of drugs with intent to supply.

The assets were seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) in 2018 as part of its investigation into Keatinge, which commenced after a van Keatinge and others were travelling in was stopped and searched by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in Co Antrim two years earlier.

CAB sought orders under Section 3 of the 1996 Proceeds of Crime Act in respect of assets it seized, including Keatinge’s home at Ellistown, Rathangan, Co Kildare, the gold bars and cash including €10,000 lodged with the Western Union international money transfer service.

CAB proceedings were against Keatinge and his former partner Veronika Saly, who is a Hungarian national.

The action was also against Jordanian national Yazan Abu Jabar, Dario Simoes and a Portuguese national who had previously lived in Dublin, who were in the van with Keatinge when it was detained by the PSNI in 2016.

After searching the van, the PSNI found cash worth approximately €60,000, including 20 €500 notes which were hidden in Keatinge’s underpants.

That money and items, including several phones, were seized by the PSNI.

The occupants of the vehicle had claimed they were en-route to Belfast Airport to take a flight to Amsterdam.

Phone analysis

An analysis by the PSNI of the phones revealed that they had conversed about and exchanged photos of blocks of cocaine, piles of cash, a cocaine price list, a cocaine purity testing kit, and handguns.

Other messages exchanged between the phones seized from the three included discussions about starting a cocaine business flight details from Budapest to Amsterdam and making MDMA capsules.

In August 2018, CAB seized the gold bars, which were being held in a Dublin vault, and made an application for possession of Keatinge’s home on the grounds that all of the assets were acquired with the proceeds of crime.

CAB’s claims were opposed by the respondents, who alleged the money used to acquire the assets, including Keatinge’s home, came from legitimate sources.

Keatinge, a music events co-ordinator and DJ, and Ms Saly, a former dancer who had worked in a Dublin hairdressers, had claimed CAB’s investigation was incomplete. They rejected the claims that money used to pay for their properties originated in the proceeds of crime.

They claimed they had sources of legitimate income which were not investigated by CAB. Keatinge, who claimed to work as a music events promoter and DJ, was jailed in 2012 for drugs offences.

He claimed businesses he operated, FNO Promotions Ltd and Ace of Clubs in Belfast, were cash based.

Mr Justice Owens said he was satisfied to grant the orders sought against 43-year-old Keatinge, also known as Marcus Adam Lane, Michael Keating, and the other respondents in regard to the gold bars, the cash held by Western Union and the Ellistown property.

The judge noted that both Mr Simoes and Mr Jabar were involved in Western Union transfers which were made through a Co Kildare Post Office shortly before they were arrested in Northern Ireland.

‘Heavily involved in criminal operations’

The judge said the evidence gathered following the arrest of the three men in Northern Ireland showed they were all “heavily involved in criminal operations” from late 2015 and had “planned to test, import and supply cocaine”.

The explanations tendered by the respondents regarding the cash used to fund the wire transfers “was implausible” the judge added. Mr Justice Owens also found that CAB had established that Keatinge is involved in the drugs trade.

There was no explanation for large sums of money that went through his bank accounts or the accounts of entities linked to him other than the monies were from the proceeds of crime, Mr Justice Owens said.

Keatinge was also an associate of a well-known criminal gang, the judge added.

CAB claimed for many years large sums of money were received by Keatinge which he used to buy a home in Knocklyon in Dublin. That property was subsequently sold, before being used to acquire his home in Rathdangan for €300,000 in 2014, which was funded with a mortgage from a financial institution.

The judge said he rejected Keatinge and Ms Saly’s claims that the money used to acquire the property were not the proceeds of crime.

Evidence had been put before the court that Keatinge had been involved in significant criminality with gangsters and drug dealing and had three convictions for drug offences committed in 2005 and 2012, the judge said.

He further rejected claims from the respondents that the money lodged with Western Union was to be used for a birthday party, or Keatinge’s claims that he acquired gold bars with savings and money he had received as compensation.

In granting the orders, Mr Justice Owens said there was no evidence to demonstrate that such orders in respect of the house would involve a serious risk of injustice to Keatinge and Ms Saly.

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