Wife of convicted 'drug baron' fails in bid to get money for lifted BMW
The wife of convicted “drug baron” Michael Byrne, currently serving an 18-year sentence in Mountjoy Prison, has failed in a bid to recover her half share in a €53,000 BMW X5 she jointly owned with her husband.
Elaine Byrne claimed in the Circuit Civil Court today that she was entitled to a 50pc interest in the Beamer, maliciously burned out in a garda compound in May 2009.
Byrne, a mother of five whose address was given as that of her solicitors Fahy Bambury McGeever, North King Street, Dublin, told the court the vehicle had been seized as part of a criminal investigation by the Garda Drug Unit in January 2008.
Barrister Karl Finnegan, counsel for the Garda Commissioner, told Judge Karen Fergus the vehicle had been destroyed by fire 16 months later, after two unidentified men had broken into the compound and set it on fire. A number of other vehicles had been damaged.
He said Ms Byrne in the High Court had challenged a restraint order on the vehicle in which she had then claimed a 100 per cent interest. The late Mr Justice Feeney had decided, prior to the proceedings having been remitted to the Circuit Court, that Ms Byrne had a 50pc financial interest in the vehicle.
Byrne agreed with Mr Finnegan that the gardai had at all times been in lawful custody of the vehicle. Her husband had been the subject of a criminal investigation when an application had been brought to seize certain assets which had affected her by way of her interest in the BMW.
Mr Finnegan said that as it turned out the vehicle no longer became a source of interest in the criminal proceedings in being at the time against her husband. He said an accelerant had been used to destroy the BMW by those who had broken into the compound.
Ms Byrne said she had never been told what happened to her jeep. She had read in the Evening Herald about the fire in the garda compound.
Barrister Laurence Masterson, for Ms Byrne, told the court she was a completely innocent party. The jeep in which she had a 50 per cent interest had been seized under the Criminal Justice Act and a freezing order had been made in regard to it by Mr Justice Feeney in the High Court.
Mr Masterson said there was an onus on the Gardai to take all reasonable and adequate steps to protect her property.
Judge Fergus, dismissing Byrne’s claim, said the gardai did not have the manpower to maintain a 24-hour physical surveillance on the vehicle. It had been held in the compound for over a year when intruders had broken in with the intention of committing a criminal act.
She felt the gardai, which had maintained cctv surveillance of the compound, had acted reasonably in the circumstances. She made no order for costs in the case.
Michael Byrne, now 42, of Old Tower, Clondalkin, Dublin, was found guilty by a jury at the Circuit Criminal Court in 2010 of possessing 32kg of heroin in his van at Palmerstown in January 2008.
Jailing him for 18 years Judge Frank O’Donnell described him as a “drug baron” who was no small fry in the industry.