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Raid cash accused was ‘creating his own bank’

The businessman charged with laundering £3m from the Northern Bank robbery was in the process of setting up a bank in Bulgaria, he told detectives.

Ted Cunningham (60) told two Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) detectives that he had travelled to Bulgaria with a view to setting up a bank and a mortgage business in partnership with then-Bank of Scotland (Ireland) boss, Phil Flynn.

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

Yesterday, Judge Cornelius Murphy and the Cork Circuit Criminal Court jury of seven men and five women watched a video-taped interview conducted with Cunningham at the Bridewell Garda Station on February 18, 2005.

The interview partly focused on the relationship between Cunningham and Phil Flynn. Cunningham said he met Mr Flynn after trying to establish a line of credit with the bank for his company, Chesterton Finance.

The trial has heard that Chesterton specialised in lending money to people who were asset-rich but cash poor with interest rates of 24-25% per annum.

“After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and getting nowhere I picked up the phone to Phil Flynn and asked him for a meeting,” Cunningham said.

“I explained to him the kind of finance we were doing. He said he would talk to people in the bank. He was not sure what their feeling on it would be.”

Cunningham confirmed another meeting then took place with Phil Flynn.

“He (Flynn) thought that the kind of finance we were doing was a great concept. But people in the bank had concerns about the bad debts we would have due to the nature of the clients we were dealing with,” he said.

Cunningham explained to the CAB officers that, “out of the blue”, he then asked Phil Flynn to get personally involved with Chesterton. After initially wanting to clarify that there would be no conflict of interest with BOSI, Phil Flynn agreed and took a 10% stake in Chesterton and became a company director.

Some time later the idea of establishing a financial venture in Bulgaria arose — and Cunningham said that Phil Flynn was offering his advice.

“Initially we said we would set up a bank (in Bulgaria) ... I suggested that Denis O’Connell (former ICC Bank chief executive) come with us as I had no banking experience and Denis did,” he added.

Ultimately, €58,000 was paid to a Bulgarian solicitor to set up a company in the country — with Cunningham funding this out of a Bank of Ireland account.

The trial — which is now in its fifth week — is expected to last until Easter. The case continues today.

Belfast Telegraph


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