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"We'll look after you" - Case collapses after court hears tape of gardai speaking to accused

CourtsBy Sunday World
"We'll look after you" - Case collapses after court hears tape of gardai speaking to accused

A trial at the non-jury Special Criminal Court has collapsed after it emerged the accused taped a conversation in which gardai told him that his partner would be arrested and his child would go into care if he did not accept responsibility for other items.

Eimantas Valteris (33) was arrested by gardai in 2013 as part of an ongoing operation to counter dissident republican activities in the border area. He was the first Lithuanian to stand trial at the Special Criminal Court. 

The prosecution decision not to proceed with the trial came after the court heard a "voir dire" or trial within a trial.

During the voir dire, defence counsel Hugh Hartnett SC introduced the audio of a recorded conversation between Mr Valteris and two gardai, one of whom was Detective Sergeant Padraig Boyce of the Special Detective Unit.

Det Sgt Boyce accepted under cross examination from Mr Hartnett that he was one of the two gardai heard in the audio, which was recorded by Mr Valteris during an encounter he had with the two gardai after his initial arrest.

During the playing of the audio in court, the gardai were heard telling Mr Valteris that "we'll look after you" if he accepted responsibility for three other firearms and four silencers. The gardai told him they knew the items were a "batch of four".

Mr Valteris was told that if he did not accept responsibility for the other items, then the gardai would be "directed" to arrest his wife. She had been in a particular premises collecting rubbish for about 30 minutes. 

"If you don't take responsibility, she'll be next."

Mr Valteris was told by the gardai that if his partner was arrested then their child would "go into care".

He was told that he was "digging a hole to put your missus" in if he wanted "to go down that route".

The gardai told Mr Valteris that they knew he was "bullshitting", that they would "have to go to your house now and arrest your partner…she'll be in custody."

The gardai were heard asking Mr Valteris: "Have we a deal or no deal … If we don't (have a deal) I'm going to have to arrest your partner."

The complete tape was not played in court on Thursday. The Director of Public Prosecutions entered a nolle prosequi - a decision not to proceed on the charge - before the playing of the tape could be resumed in court today.

On the fourth day of the trial, prosecuting counsel Mr Tony McGillicuddy BL told the three-judge court that the State was entering a "nolle prosequi" on the charge - in other words not proceeding with the prosecution - and Mr Valteris could be discharged.

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, presiding, ordered that Valteris should be discharged.

Mr Valteris, with an address at Park Vale, Grange Rath, Drogheda, Co Meath, had pleaded not guilty to the unlawful possession of a .32 inch auto (7.65mm) calibre IZH 79-8 model Baikal make semi-automatic pistol bearing serial number TPB358706 at Balmoral Industrial Estate, Navan, Co Meath on June 10, 2013.

The court had heard that Mr Valteris operated a car sales depot at the Balmoral Industrial Estate. It was the prosecution case that he was observed by gardai arriving at the depot on the afternoon of June 10, 2013.

The court would hear evidence that Mr Valteris was seen going to an nearby yard where a red Fiat Ducato van was parked. A black VW Passat car came back to the yard and stopped close to where Mr Valteris was standing. A man was observed opening the boot of the Passat and then the car left the yard.

The VW Passat was later stopped by gardai in Castlebellingham, Co Louth and a semi-automatic pistol was found wrapped in material in a box in the boot. 

During a later search of Mr Valteris's yard €2,000 was found in another car. The prosecution alleged that Valteris had been storing the gun.