The £4.5m conned out of the victims of a Turkish property scam was simply “put into a bucket with no bottom in it”, a judge has said.
Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice McLaughlin also warned conman Kevin O'Kane (52) that he faces “only one outcome” following his conviction on Friday of 25 fraud charges.
Mr Justice McLaughlin freed O’Kane on his own bail of £1,000 with two cash sureties totalling £40,000 on condition he reports daily to police and observes a 9pm curfew.
Earlier, prosecutor Liam McCollum QC said Turkish officials have allegedly reported that nothing is left of £4.5m paid into the bank account of a decorator.
The monies, he added, were taken from the account by way of cash withdrawals.
The operation of O'Kane lodging monies in such a way was “a complete farce” and “totally beggars belief”, said Mr Justice McLaughlin.
The judge said that he had spent over three months listening to the case and he had “never heard anything like it ... four million goes into an account and most of it comes out in cash”.
During O’Kane’s bail application, defence lawyer John O'Hare said the main objection was the “risk of flight” by O'Kane, a family man with strong local ties, and that “substantial cash sureties” of £20,000 were available.
Mr Justice McLaughlin immediately interjected, describing the suggested figure as something that “shall we say, is cloud-cuckoo land”.
He later added that “when four-and-a-half million pounds goes down the plug hole, talking about £20,000, we are talking about beans”.
Mr Justice McLaughlin also said the money was “put into a bucket with no bottom in it”.
Concerning Mr O'Hare's claims that the former coalman had fled Turkey because he was under threat, the judge again intervened, telling the lawyer to remember “you are dealing with a conman”.
Mr Justice McLaughlin said that O'Kane had yet to be sentenced on serious charges, the maximum jail term for which was 10 years, although a man with a clear record was unlikely to receive such a sentence.
O'Kane's case will be mentioned later this month when a sentencing date will be fixed.
“Unfortunately Mr O'Kane never tried in any way to compensate us with anything. He just would not talk about it. His attitude was, with the money, ‘it’s away, and hard luck boys’.”
- John Moore, who was duped into paying for a luxury villa which never existed