Supreme Court refuses to hear Limerick criminal John McCormack's CAB appeal
The CAB found that three of Mr McCormack properties were funded from the proceeds of crime
The Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal against a finding that several properties in the Mid-West were bought with the proceeds of crime.
The houses were acquired by John McCormack with previous addresses in Shannon, Co Clare; Roxboro, Co Limerick and the Canary Islands.
The Criminal Assets Bureau claimed that the three of Mr McCormack properties, located at Purcell Park, Cloontra West and Claughan Fort, were funded from the proceeds of crime.
in 2020 Mr Justice Alexander Owens in the High Court said he was satisfied to make orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 restraining Mr McCormack or any person having notice of the making of the order from disposing or otherwise dealing with the properties identified.
Mr McCormack appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal, which upheld the findings.
He sought to appeal to those decisions, on the grounds that the actions raised issues of general public importance that required determination, to the Supreme Court.
In a written decision the Supreme Court, comprised of the Chief Justice Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell, Mr Justice Peter Charleton and Ms Justice Marie Baker said it did not consider that the applicant has established that the CoA's decision contained any issue of general public importance.
The Supreme Court also held that it was not in the interests of justice that an appeal to the Court should be permitted.
In his application to the Supreme Court Mr McCormack had argued that some of the properties involved here are residential properties in which it is said the applicant’s wife and adult daughter were living and which it is said are accordingly family homes.
It is argued that CAB should have joined Mr McCormack’s spouse and daughter to the proceedings and that a failure to do so deprived those potential notice parties of the opportunity of asserting that the making of the order would constitute an injustice.
He also argued that while the 1996 Act permits a senior garda officer to offer evidence of belief this does not permit what was described as “hearsay upon hearsay ”
This, it was claimed arose in this case when a relevant witness stated that he relied in part upon the evidence of individual identified members of the Gardaí who also gave evidence in the case.
He further contended that the refusal to grant him legal aid to defend the claim meant that the proceedings were unfair.
The Supreme Court held that there had been an extensive hearing of this matter in the High Court and a detailed and comprehensive judgment delivered.
A further careful review was carried out in the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court said that Mr McCormack also wants to restrain a receiver from taking charge of the properties.
The High Court order had made an order in June 2021, appointing a receiver.
However, that that is not the order made by Mr Justice Owens in 2020, nor was it the subject of the appeal to the CoA and the application to the Supreme Court.
The reference to an obligation to put his spouse and daughter on notice of the proceedings appears misconceived, the Supreme Court added.
It had not explained how this is a matter of which Mr. McCormack can complain or how this can affect this issue between him and the CAB, the Supreme Court said.
The CoA had pointed out that the supposed notice parties were unaware of the existence of CAB's proceedings.
The admission of evidence of belief before the High Court was in accordance with settled law, as upheld by the CoA, the Supreme Court added.
The question of legal aid was fully canvassed and considered by the High Court and the CoA.
The lower courts had found that Mr. McCormack had failed to adduce sufficient evidence to establish that he was unable to secure legal assistance from his own resources, the Supreme Court concluded.
Both the COA and the High Court heard that the properties were acquired between 1995 and 2011 and were at the time of the institution of the proceedings were unencumbered.
CAB claimed that during that period Mr McCormack did not have any lawful source of income that would have accounted for his expenditure on these and other assets.
The High Court found that the evidence adduced on behalf of CAB established that Mr McCormack "had for many years been involved in serious criminal activity, that the nature of that activity was such that it was likely he gained financially from it and that the income generated was likely to have been the source of the funds with which each of the properties was acquired".
During the proceedings, a detective sergeant said from confidential sources he knew Mr McCormack "to be one of the biggest suppliers of illegal drugs based in the mid-west of Ireland and that, with others he had been responsible for the importation into Ireland of vast quantities of drugs since the late 1990s."
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