Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Heist: Irish bank chief 'was boss behind everything'

A businessman charged with laundering £3m from the Northern Bank robbery told gardai that then-Bank of Scotland (Ireland) chief, Phil Flynn, was “the boss behind everything”.

Ted Cunningham (60) also told detectives that Mr Flynn had told him he would be getting £5m, and that, together with a freelance consultant, was “organising everything”.

The claim came as detectives vehemently denied to defence counsel that they had threatened Cunningham with the Witness Protection Programme — or that they had told him they would feed information to the media that he had given details about IRA people which would mean “a bullet in the head”.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday heard details of an off-camera Garda interview conducted with Mr Cunningham when he was arrested following a raid on his house four years ago.

Mr Cunningham, of Farran, Co Cork, denies a total of 20 charges of laundering the proceeds of the Northern Bank robbery in |December 2004.

Yesterday, Judge Cornelius Murphy and the jury heard evidence from Det Chief Supt Tony Quilter about an off-camera interview conducted with Mr Cunningham at the Bridewell Garda Station in Cork on February 18 2005.

Det Chief Supt Quilter said that Mr Cunningham “blurted out” various statements to gardai.

“He (Mr Cunningham) breathed a sigh and said: ‘Phil Flynn — the boss behind everything. And Catherine (Nelson) was the contact.’”

The detective said Mr Cunningham added: “Phil and Catherine were organising everything. I raised concerns with Phil that the money was from the Northern Bank robbery ... I told him that the money was in the house but I told him the Northern stuff was gone.”

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.”

The defendant told gardai he became suspicious of the money when he realised it was sterling.

Det Chief Supt Quilter said Mr Cunningham added: “I saw Northern sterling. I didn’t count it at that stage. I wasn’t a fool. When I saw Northern notes I knew what it was. I suspected it was from the Northern Bank job.”

Det Chief Supt Quilter said that Cunningham explained he was “a little mad” when he realised the origin of the cash.

The case continues today.

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