Drug dealer claimed €40k in bank was earned from 'nixers'

CourtsBy Sunday World
It was claimed the money came from 'nixers'
It was claimed the money came from 'nixers'

A convicted drug dealer who claimed he had €40,000 in bank accounts from “nixers” as a tiler has lost an appeal against a confiscation order

Michael Byrne (46), with an address at the Midlands Prison, Portlaoise, was observed counting packages in the rear of a van which were later analysed and found to contain Diamorphine worth approximately €6 million. He was subsequently sentenced to 17 years imprisonment.

Following his conviction in March 2010, the Director of Public Prosecutions sought an inquiry to determine whether Byrne had benefited or had assets attributable to drug dealing. A statement was served seeking the confiscation of €40,253 – the entire proceeds of three bank accounts held by him.

A forensic accountant was cross examined in relation to her analysis of bank accounts. Her conclusion was that for the period in question, Byrne had a declared income of about €43,000 net and had spent about €188,000 net.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt acceded to the application and ordered the confiscation of the sum on July 31, 2012.

Byrne sought to appeal the confiscation order on grounds that the judge erred in admitting into evidence a statement which, it was contended, had no evidential value.

Giving judgment in the Court of Appeal yesterday, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the thrust of the cross examination was that the funds were likely the proceeds of “nixers”.

However, the trial judge indicated that he expected to have been provided with some details, “perhaps a few examples or the like”.

Mr Justice Hunt had said he was satisfied that Byrne did carry out business as a tiler but the question was whether the sums found in the bank account were more likely attributable to that than to his activities in relation to illicit drugs.

The judge was satisfied that no valid or credible explanation had been provided in the course of the the inquiry as to the source of funds.

In the Court of Appeal's view, the forensic accountant was entitled to carry out such inquiries as she regarded appropriate and then to have regard to the material that was available to her in reaching her view.

She attended court, gave direct evidence and was cross examined.

At that stage there were two alternative theories before the court: that the funds came into existence as a result of “nixers” or that the funds represented the proceeds of drug trafficking.

In the Court of Appeal's view, Mr Justice Birmingham said that the conclusion reached by the trial judge was open to him and there was ample evidence for it.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, dismissed the appeal and affirmed the confiscation order.