Friday, May 19, 2023

Eoin Reynolds

A notorious Limerick criminal with a previous conviction for nailing a man to a kitchen floor has been jailed for 3½ years after being caught with money and two phones that were the proceeds of crime.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt at the Special Criminal Court said that Gerard Mackin handled the money “in the context of some form of serious organised criminality in the Limerick area”. While the sum of money, €4,780, was “at the lower end of the scale”, the judge said the circumstances were not and Mackin’s previous conviction for assault causing harm is “relevant to this case in that it explains the background against which the proceeds of crime in this case were handled”.

In mitigation, the judge considered Mackin’s early guilty plea and lack of sophistication in how he implicated himself when questioned by gardaí about the money. He set a headline sentence of four years and eight months and reduced that to three years and six months after taking into account the mitigating factors. He backdated the sentence to December 5th, 2022 when Mackin first went into custody.

At a hearing last March, Mackin accepted through his lawyers that he had made poor choices and intended to turn his life around with his family in Spain when he is released from prison.

The Belfast native, with a previous address at Rhebogue Road in Limerick, was once the first person convicted of a Belfast murder by a Dublin court before his conviction was quashed and a retrial collapsed.

Guilty plea

The 40-year-old was extradited from Alicante in Spain last December and pleaded guilty to laundering €4,780 as the proceeds of criminal behaviour at Rhebogue Road in Limerick on April 17th, 2019.

Mackin had pleaded guilty before the three-judge court to knowing or believing, or being reckless as to whether property, €4,780, was the proceeds of criminal conduct, did handle, acquire and/or possess the said property contrary to Section 7 of the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act of 2010.

Detective Garda Stephen Ahern previously told the court that he arrested Mackin at Dublin Airport on December 5th last year in relation to a European Arrest Warrant issued on April 7th, 2022.

At the hearing in March Detective Sergeant Padraig O’Dwyer told prosecution counsel Fiona Murphy SC that two gardaí on patrol had observed an Opel Insignia car suspiciously parked outside Mackin’s house on April 17th, 2019. Gardaí had a conversation with the driver of the vehicle and he was searched.

Det Sgt O’Dwyer said the driver was found to be in possession of €4,780 in cash, an Aquaris phone and an iPhone wrapped in bubble wrap and tied together with elastic bands.

The driver spoke to gardaí and said he was self-employed and that the money belonged to him. A cautioned memo was later taken from the driver of the car.

On that date, the court heard that Mackin came out of his house and conversed with gardaí telling them that the money belonged to him. Mackin informed gardaí that the driver of the car was going to Belfast the next day and that the money was to be given to his [Mackin’s] fiancee.

Mackin produced a receipt from a credit union showing that he had a loan for €10,000. A search was carried out on the driver of the Insignia and Mackin but nothing of evidential value was found.

Mackin was later arrested and taken to Henry Street Garda Station, where he was interviewed on a number of occasions and denied the offence of money laundering.

During his fourth interview Mackin told officers that he had seen gardaí outside his house and from his experience of gardaí in the past “I said, put that money up for safekeeping in case you coming for me”.

When asked about the Aquaris phone, which the court heard is used to communicate privately, Mackin told detectives that it had been left in his house and he had picked it up.

Mackin said the €4,780 was made up of a deposit by him to his previous landlord. Ms Murphy said a statement was taken from the landlord, who said the denominations were in €50 notes but that the money seized had been in €20 notes.

Mackin was then released and a file was sent to the DPP.

It is the prosecution’s case, said Ms Murphy, that the money in the package was “not derived from a deposit” but was the proceeds of crime.

Counsel said the guilty plea was entered by Mackin in circumstances where he accepts the circumstances of the seizure and his guilt for the offence of money laundering. She said the view of gardaí is that Mackin was engaged in criminality at the time of the offence.

The court heard that Mackin has one previous conviction for assault causing harm.

Arrest warrant

When directions were issued by the DPP to charge Mackin with money laundering, the accused had moved to Spain and a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was issued. Mackin, the court heard, consented to his surrender and has been in custody since his arrest in Spain on December 5th, 2022.

Defence counsel Ronan Kennedy SC said there “is little enough to be said for the offence itself” and that obviously any money laundering offence is serious but the sum of money involved in the case fell at the lower end of the scale.

Mr Kennedy asked the court to take into account that his client had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. He said that Mackin was in a long-term relationship with his partner since 2005 and they had two children together.

In his submissions, Mr Kennedy said that Mackin and his family decided to move to Spain in September 2021 where the defendant found employment working in a building firm. “Things were going well until his past came back to haunt him and he was then arrested on foot of a EAW,” he said. The court heard he went into custody in Spain on December 2nd, 2022.

Counsel asked the court to take into consideration that Mackin has never met his eight-week-old son because of his surrender and that he has been incarcerated since then. “That is a source of very significant upset and regret to him that he wasn’t present for his son’s birth. His absence has also caused particular hardship to his partner in the last number of weeks,” he added.

In mitigation, Mr Kennedy said actions speak louder than words and that the manner in which his client met the case was instructive. “He came home to Ireland to face the music and wipe the slate clean,” he said, adding that Mackin had not made an application for bail.

In terms of the future, counsel said that Mackin would be on the first flight back to Spain when he is released from prison as he intended to build a new life there with his family and does not intend to return to this jurisdiction, certainly in the short-term.

Furthermore, the lawyer said Mackin intended to turn his life around when he is released from prison. “He is a person who has had an opportunity to look back on his past behaviour and readily accepts he made poor choices in the past and is determined to make a go of it when he serves his sentence,” he stated.

The barrister said the defendant was born into a family where alcohol was “rife” and had taken positive steps in recent years to deal with this by having an implant inserted in 2020.

Ms Murphy, prosecuting, said the court needed to look at three matters namely the amount of money involved, the circumstances in which the money was moved and how it was obviously of relevance that the defendant was found with other items.

Previous trial

In January 2011, Mackin’s retrial for the murder of Edward Burns, a taxi driver and 36-year-old father-of-five, dramatically collapsed at the Special Criminal Court after the State entered a ‘nolle prosequi’ [a decision not to prosecute]. Several of Mackin’s supporters who were in court applauded and cheered while members of the victim’s family openly wept.

The chief prosecution witness refused to give evidence at the trial after telling a Belfast High Court judge he was threatened that if he gave any evidence, he would be shot dead.

Mackin had pleaded not guilty to the murder at Bog Meadow, Falls Road, Belfast on March 12th, 2007.

It was the second trial of Mackin after a 2008 conviction – which made Mackin the first person convicted in a Dublin court for an alleged murder in Belfast under a rarely-used cross border anti-terrorism law – was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal and a retrial ordered.

In July 2013, another nolle prosequi was entered against Mackin at the non-jury court on a charge of IRA membership and demanding money with menaces on behalf of the INLA in Co Monaghan on May 18th and 21st, 2012.

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