Judge Nolan said Paul Keenan deserved a long sentence because his level of involvement in the money-laundering operation
Paul Keenan (43) of Griffeen Glen Park, Lucan, Co Dublin, pleaded guilty to possessing the money on March 13, 2019 and 31 March 2021, along with possessing quantities of drugs on the same occasions.
Passing sentence on Wednesday afternoon at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Martin Nolan described Keenan as “intelligent, accomplished and mature” and noted that he had had a good education and was a skilled and useful employee.
However, Judge Nolan said Keenan deserved a long sentence because his level of involvement in the money-laundering operation was very high, and handed down two sentences of five and six years, to run consecutively.
“He made decisions, he took drugs, he incurred debt. All of his difficulties are more or less of his own making,” said the judge, adding that Keenan had taken “many, many wrong turns in his life”.
“His addiction problem led him down a pretty long and pretty dark road,” said Judge Nolan.
Garda Brian Masterson told Gráinne O’Neill BL, prosecuting, that a van was stopped at a garda speed check on the Finglas Road on March 13, 2019. It had been driving at over 80 kmph in a 60kmph zone, the court heard.
Gda Masterson said the driver seemed very nervous and his right arm, which was jammed between the door and the seat, was rigid and shaking. The driver refused to put his arm up on the steering wheel and Gda Masterson heard something drop on the floor.
A cursory search of the van revealed a white bag on the floor containing cocaine, which Keenan said was for his personal use and had cost him about €1,000. Quantities of cash totalling over €4,000 were also found.
Keenan told gardaí that there was more cash in the van, and a further search revealed three packages wrapped in black plastic and masking tape, the contents of which made up about €155,000. Two shotgun cartridges were also found in the van door panel.
Keenan’s home was then searched and gardaí found a large number of items including 150 heart-shaped blue tablets, tick lists, three cans of pepper spray, a stun gun and four rounds of ammunition for use in pistols, automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
Gardaí also found about 10 mobile phones, including two BQ Aquaris phones which the court heard are encrypted and often used by criminal gangs.
A large number of banking money bags were also recovered along with luxury goods including a Gucci handbag, Rolex watches and a Ralph Lauren jacket.
Keenan initially told gardaí that himself and some friends were bringing the cocaine in the car for a weekend away. He also said the €155,000 in cash was for renovating a house in Ballyfermot and for investing in a place in Thailand with a few of his friends.
He eventually accepted that the money was not his and that he was holding it for third parties, whom he refused to name. Keenan said his role was to collect money and deliver phones every couple of weeks.
He denied that he would ever touch a gun and told gardaí, “I don’t go out much, I go to the gym, I keep to myself, I don’t have time to mix.” The 26 grammes of cocaine found in the car had a street value of €1,820, the court heard.
Garda Tracy Robinson gave evidence that during the initial search of Keenan’s house, gardaí found a Bank of Ireland bank statement which led to an investigation by the Criminal Assets Bureau.
The court heard that the bank account had €44,000 in it and although the lodgements came from legitimate sources, there was no evidence of day-to-day living expenses and gardaí deduced that Keenan was funding his lifestyle from other sources.
Keenan’s home was searched again by CAB officers and a sniffer dog on March 31, 2021. They recovered quantities of cash totally €65,980 and £520 sterling.
Quantities of cocaine, heroin, cannabis and meth with a total value of €40,555 were also seized. During this second search, gardaí also found about 15 phones throughout the house. along with luxury and designer items including three Rolex watches and a Canada Goose jacket.
When interviewed by gardaí, Keenan refused to answer questions and said he couldn’t. He said he had a drug debt of about €100,000 and was under pressure.
Keenan has five previous convictions including a three-year prison sentence for possessing €22,000 of cocaine.
Dominic McGinn SC, defending, said Keenan had completed a residential rehabilitation programme in the Rutland Centre and remains drug free.
He said Keenan had accrued an enormous debt during the period of his drug addiction and was terrorised by those to whom he owed money. Mr McGinn said there was a break-in at Keenan’s home and he was threatened at the point of a machete or a sword.
The court heard that Keenan had a degree in electrical engineering and worked his whole adult life as an electrician. References from his employer, who was present in court, and from two customers, were handed to the judge.
Judge Nolan said it was Keenan’s drug debt that had led him to become involved with criminal wrong-doing, but that the pressure he was under had been self-induced.
The court heard that the money seized will be frozen for seven years and then forfeited by order of the judge.