Appeal over €900k in onion bags prison term
A MAN jailed after gardaí searched a bag of onions and found €911,600 destined for the Kinahan cartel must wait to hear whether his prison sentence will be increased.
Bernard Joyce (45) admitted possessing the money, which was the proceeds of criminal conduct, at Arnestown, Foulksmills, Co. Wexford.
At Wexford Circuit Criminal Court he was jailed for three years but the DPP appealed the sentence to the Court of Appeal on grounds of undue leniency.
Sinead Gleeson, for the DPP, yesterday told the court the sentencing judge had imposed a jail term that did not adequately reflect the gravity of the offence committed. There were factors such as the amount of cash recovered by gardaí, the cash being concealed and the defendant's attempt to flee gardaí.
Ms Gleeson said the original judge had placed the offence in the mid-range with a headline sentence of seven years but provided too great a reduction and the final sentence of three years did not reflect the overall gravity of the offence.
The judge had referred to the quantity of cash and the seriousness of the offence but did not refer to the cash being concealed and divided in bundles surrounded by onions to deter the sniffer dog, she said.
"It seems the sentencing judge gave excessive credit for a guilty plea and may have fallen into error in that regard," she said.
But Philip Sheahan SC, for Joyce, said the sentencing judge had applied a careful approach and there was no error.
"There is a difference between who takes possession of and transports proceeds of crime and persons higher up in the organisation who launder money in a sophisticated manner," he said.
Mr Sheahan said his client's offending had been limited to transporting the money.
He said money laundering offences can range from 14 years in jail to a fully suspended sentence and there was a very good reason such a wide discretion was in place.
"The gravity of the offending can vary between the very serious and less serious to the minimum," he added.
The Wexford court had heard how Joyce, of Newtown, Beauparc, Slane, Co. Meath, drove off in a camper van when gardaí were searching a premises.
Gardaí followed the van and stopped it. They looked under a bed in the van and discovered a hollow section with bags of onions containing parcels of cash wrapped in brown tape.
The Court of Appeal judges will make their judgment known at a later date.