Belfast Telegraph

Probe into cash seized at Maghaberry jail

Fake notes could be among £500,000 wad handed to authorities, court told

Counterfeit notes may have been among £500,000 in cash used in a bid to secure the release of a convicted cigarette smuggler, the High Court heard.

Examinations are being carried out on every note seized at Maghaberry jail from the sister of Aidan Grew.

Details emerged as Grew failed in a legal bid to force police to hand over the money to the prison so that he can be released.

The 55-year-old, formerly of Benburb Street, Blackwatertown, pleaded guilty in 2008 to evading duty on millions of cigarettes three years previously.

He was ordered to pay £500,000 to HM Revenue and Customs, with a three-year prison sentence left suspended.

After failing to comply with the confiscation order within the time allowed, he was arrested in September.

Grew's sister, Patricia O'Neill, was then detained, interviewed and released on unconditional bail when she went to the prison with the cash.

It had been suggested to police by Grew's lawyers that the money he planned to use to discharge the warrant stemmed from the criminal activity which led to the confiscation order, the court was told.

But detectives decided to seize the cash as evidence of alleged money laundering.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, who heard Grew's judicial review application, described how a forensic examination of the cash was launched.

Sir Declan said: “There is a concern that some of the notes may be counterfeit and an expert has been retained to advise police on this.”

Grew was seeking to quash the PSNI seizure of the cash, and an order compelling officers to deliver it to Maghaberry so that the warrant under which he is being held can be discharged.

But Sir Declan, sitting with Lords Justice Girvan and Coghlin, rejected all arguments advanced.

These included claims that police had no reasonable grounds for believing either that the money was recoverable property, or that the seizure was necessary.

The judges held that taking the cash during a money laundering investigation to protect forensic evidence fell within regulations.

Refusing leave to seek a judicial review, Sir Declan added: “We accept, therefore, that the seizure of the cash was necessary as the practical and sensible option to prevent alteration of the forensic evidence.”

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