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King and Queen of bling probed as CAB seize high-end watches, handbags and jewellery

'They don't really care where they live because there's not much point in buying a house if their life expectancy is not past 30'

Elaine Byrne and Kenneth Carpenter

Eugene Masterson

Couple Kenneth Carpenter and Elaine Byrne were among the king and queens of bling targeted by the Criminal Assets Bureau as they moved in on luxury items believed to be bought with money from illegal activities.

Not only have houses, cars, cash and high-end items such as watches and handbags been seized by CAB, but also more unusual lots such as planes, boats and even a racehorse.

Carpenter was suspected of being involved in drug dealing and CAB went after their assets, conducted searches and found quite an amount spent on a modest council house in north Clondalkin as well as valuable assets.

"Kenneth Carpenter claimed to be working as a car salesman in order to get a mortgage on this house and he had quite a hefty mortgage on it," Nicola Tallant, Investigations Editor with the Sunday World tells Virgin Media series The Criminal Assets Bureau.

Among the items seized in the house was a gent's watch, a Rolex worth €29,500, a woman's watch left on a locker worth almost €20,000, with jewellery worth a total of €75,000.

CAB repossess a house

There was also a white quilted Chanel handbag worth €3,000 and more than €20,000 in cash in different currencies found throughout the house.

"They actually found something they hadn't previously realised existed, which was a platinum card for Brown Thomas," notes Nicola.

"You have to spend €5,000 a year in the store in order to have it."

CAB legal officer Kevin McMeel says many among the new breed of criminals are part of the Instagram generation.

"They are buying what I would refer to as short term assets; watches, runners," said Kevin McMeel.

"They are renting cars, they don't even want to buy cars, and part of that is a reaction to the Criminal Assets Bureau. But what we see now is it looks like there's this Instagram generation that even the criminals... are just looking for an Instagram shot. They don't really care where they live because there's not much point in buying a house if their life expectancy is not past 30 and that's a really worrying and concerning trend.

"You wonder what it's all for really, that they are dying with these fancy watches on their arm but nothing else."

Former CAB chief Pat Clavin says Elaine Byrne was on lone parents' allowance at the time of the seizures.

"CAB, being a multiagency body, would look at things from a tax point of view and would look at things from a social welfare point of view, so there was a social welfare issue in relation to her in addition to the assets they had," he says.

When the couple made a settlement they signed over the house, as well as cars, jewellery, handbags and several other items.

"In the case of Carpenter and Byrne it captured the imagination of the public," admits McMeel.

Kevin McMeel

"I suppose because of the nature of the high value goods and luxury items, the day-to-day living expenditure versus the claims that were being made under the social welfare acts.

"I think that's something that sticks in the craw of Joe Public when they see their hard earned taxes being spent on social welfare, social protection for individuals that clearly don't need it and I think that people appreciate that when it's called out and that's pulled up."

Michael Gubbins, the current chief CAB officer, shows a typical example of a batch of seized goods.

He highlights a plastic bag full of more than €100,000 cash, Rolex watches worth from €10,000 to €35,000 and a variety of women's handbags which can cost up to €10,000 a piece.

Luxury goods seized by CAB

"Beside this we have another Rolex watch, its approximately €12,000. But you must remember this, that along with the proceeds of crimes, often these are used as a currency which allow the criminals to exchange or barter with others in relation to it," he explains.

"It's like a currency, so they can go through the airport with a €35,000 watch. It's easier to go through the airport than maybe with cash, which can be identified a lot easier.

"We have come across houses with multiple high value watches. Again, this may be savings put away for a rainy day. It's the running away money effectively if an incident happens."

He adds: "You can see they are quite expensive, but you must remember that behind the purchase of each of these items, no matter how glamorous they are how expensive they are, there are victims, there are relatives of yours and mine, neighbours, people in our community who have been robbed, burgled, defrauded. There are people who have been addicted to drugs.

"There is intimidation, there is violence and even murder.

"So it's absolutely important that we deprive those individuals of that and let the people see and the community see they have influence over that - everything isn't rosy for the more senior members of those organised crime groups and that they can have a fall from grace as quick as anybody else."

The Criminal Assets Bureau is on Virgin Media One on Wednesday at 9pm.

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