A Dublin man has been jailed after he was caught with €1.7 million which were part of the proceeds of a bank heist following the tiger kidnapping of a bank employee, his girlfriend and her family.
The court heard that a total of €7.66 million had been taken from the Bank of Ireland, College Green, on February 26, 2009, after a staff member, his girlfriend and her family were falsely imprisoned by a gang of armed men at their home in Kilteel, Co Kildare.
Darren O’Brien (27) of North Stand, Dublin 3, pleaded guilty on the morning of his trial to handling stolen cash in Dublin 7 on February 27, 2009.
O’Brien has 27 previous convictions, one of which includes possession of a firearm with intent. The remainder of his convictions had been dealt with in the District Court.
A co-accused Mark Donoghue (42) of Kileen, Legen, Longford, received a five year term with two suspended in March 2010 from Judge Patricia Ryan. He had pleaded guilty to a more serious charge of money laundering and had no previous convictions.
Uná Ní Raifeartaigh SC, prosecuting told Judge Desmond Hogan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that the Director of Public Prosecutions are not suggesting that O’Brien was involved in the bank robbery or that he had any knowledge of the tiger kidnapping.
She suggested that the court “could draw an inference”, considering the quantity of cash he was carrying, that he knew it had come from a robbery.
Judge Hogan sentenced O’Brien to seven years with 12 months suspended on strict conditions. He also gave him credit for 18 months he has spent on remand in prison awaiting sentence.
He accepted that O’Brien had pleaded guilty and had saved the victims of the tiger kidnapping having to give evidence at trial and “reliving the harrowing experience they must have endured”.
“It would be unfair to infer that he had knowledge of the tiger kidnapping…I will resist that temptation,” Judge Hogan said.
“Having said that the court is mindful that his offence was at the higher end of the scale, and involved him handling an extremely large amount of money,” he continued.
Detective Inspector Ashley O’Sullivan told the court that the victims had been held at gunpoint in their home on February 26, 2009.
The Bank of Ireland employee was then ordered to go to work at his branch in College Green where he arranged for the money to be placed in bags before it was handed out to the gang.
He had been given photographs of his girlfriend and her family and the home of another staff member to show his colleagues before the cash was taken.
Det Insp O’Sullivan told Ms Ní Raifeartaigh that that gardai received confidential information on who had control over the stolen money and had an address in Great Western Villas, Dublin 7, under surveillance hours after the robbery.
O’Brien was seen driving a sliver BMW into the estate before going into a house carrying a holdall. He left the house a short time later without it.
A blue Volkswagen later arrived into the estate along with an Opel Astra, which was driven by Donoghue. The holdall bag was then taken from the house and placed in the Astra.
Gardaí then moved in and surrounded both cars. They blocked Donoghue’s exit out of the estate but he managed to get by and flee the scene.
At least one patrol car pursued Donoghue and at the junction of the N3 with the M50 he was blocked in by a second squad car and arrested.
The holdall, which contained €1.74 million in cash, was found in the boot of the Astra and later analysis linked it to the money taken in the robbery earlier that day.
O’Brien was later arrested but Ms Ní Raifeartaigh said he “did not give any assistance to gardaí” in his subsequent interviews with them.
Hugh Hartnett SC, defending asked Judge Hogan to accept that his client didn’t know about the tiger kidnapping or the robbery.
He handed in a number of testimonials on behalf of his client and asked the court to take into account the fact that he had pleaded guilty to the offence.