wheels of misfortune  | 

Wheels come off mob launderer Thomas Rooney's chauffeur business as CAB seize high-end vehicle

Rooney is serving a six-year sentence for laundering cash for the Thomas Maher mob

Thomas Rooney

Patrick O'Connell

This is the stunning fleet of Mercedes built up by mob bagman Thomas Rooney - as he ploughed over €120,000 into cars for his fledgling chauffeur business.

Accounts filed for Rooney's 'EBT Executive Travel' show the father-of-four's decision to 'go all in' put him under significant financial pressure from the off - and left him facing into debts of over €140,000 after just 12 months in business.

Still, jailed Rooney now has one less luxury vehicle to tax and insure after the Special Criminal Court ordered the confiscation of a €50k Mercedes S- Class, which he used instead of 'a banger' while laundering €600,000 in organised crime cash.

Company documents obtained by the Sunday World show Drogheda man Rooney, who is serving a six-year sentence for laundering cash for the Thomas Maher mob on an 'industrial scale', built up a fleet of high-end vehicles after registering company EBT Executive Travel on January 16, 2018.

Some of the high-end vehicles Rooney purchased to build his business

In his first full year of trading, Rooney's business boasted a Mercedes S-class for weddings, an E-Class for corporate events and a Mercedes V-Class eight-seater.

Thomas Rooney (41) PIC: Collins Courts

Vowing to provide the people of Drogheda with a high-end but affordable chauffeur service, the jailed crim played up his humble origins as a 'local boy' done good when he launched the business.

He described himself on the company website as the son of a local woman who had set up a society for the deaf and as someone who was "passionate about keeping all my business local".

Sources said this week that EBT's flash arrival into the industry, competing for VIP airport travellers, corporate events, weddings and high-end sight-seeing tours, raised eyebrows among some in the trade.

However, his competitors never for one second suspected the genial Drogheda man would emerge to be a key cog in the money-laundering operation of an organised crime mob, later linked to the Kinahan cartel.

One key cost for Rooney in the first 12 months of trading was a €72,000 loan he took out to purchase his Mercedes S-Class - the vehicle he would eventually be caught laundering mob cash out of just 18 months after filing that first troubling set of accounts.

And it was this vehicle that the State saw fit to confiscate from him and hand over to CAB for re-sale last week.

Granting the order for the confiscation of S350, Mr Justice Tony Hunt noted that Rooney used the car to transport the cash in what was an "industrial scale money laundering" operation.

Justice Hunt said that Rooney must be taken to have accepted the risk his conduct entailed and could not signal to other criminals that they can use their own property for such criminal enterprises with no impunity.

He therefore ordered the forfeiture order that had been sought by the State.

Mr Justice Hunt previously remarked that Rooney would have been better off using a "cheap banger off Done Deal" rather than the "high-end" Mercedes in question.

Rooney (52), of Betaghstown, Bettystown, Co Meath, pleaded guilty last year to offences under Section 7 of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Act 2010.

He was found in possession of €289,770 and £65,025 (€77,000) in crime cash in a blue Nike holdall at the Spar car park, Donore Road, Drogheda on May 11, 2020.

Described as a "mid-to-high level" member of the gang, Rooney also pleaded guilty to possessing €254,840 in a black holdall bag at Donore Road and to possessing €7,650 at North Road, Drogheda, on the same date.

A subsequent search of his home uncovered an encrypted Aquarius phone along with fake designer bags, luxury watches and two signal blockers. Rooney was sentenced to six years' imprisonment by the three-judge court in January of this year.

Gardai also seized the black Mercedes S350 that Rooney used as part of his limousine business.

Garret Baker BL previously told the court that the State was seeking the forfeiture of the Mercedes, which was in possession of Rooney's chauffeur service company EBT Executive Travel Limited, because the defendant had admitted counting €7,650 in crime cash from an envelope in the vehicle.

Counsel said that Rooney had also sent co-ordinating texts from a phone plugged into the car.

Mr Baker said that if someone is "rumbled" for the offence in question, the consequences can "go beyond personal liberty" and the State's request was a "legitimate application to make if people engage with obscene amounts of money that are criminally generated".

Since Rooney's arrest and conviction, a Sunday World probe has discovered his laundering activities were linked to linked to a major drug smuggling network between Ireland and the Netherlands.

Rooney set up times and locations to move huge sums of cash and had an encrypted phone only used by senior gang members.

He had been part of the criminal network run by rogue haulier Thomas Maher from Clara, Co Offaly, who is currently serving a 14-year-sentence in the United Kingdom.

Rooney is the third person to be convicted over the cash link to Maher who transported cocaine from the Netherlands to Ireland through the UK.

Maher who also had an address in Warrington ran a money-laundering and drug-trafficking operation and worked with other criminal groups including the Kinahan cartel.

He has been involved in organised crime for over two decades and was also arrested by UK police investigating the deaths of 29 Vietnamese migrants in a truck container in Essex in 2019 but was later released without charge.

Catherine Dawson

While being questioned after he was discovered with the cash, Rooney told gardaí that Covid-19 had put his chauffeur business "down the drain" and that it was "stupid" to get his partner Catherine Dawson, a health care worker, also involved.

Dawson, who received a suspended sentence, "had nothing to do with it," he insisted.

He also claimed to gardaí he was to get just €1,200 for moving the money and that he was in fear of his life.

The third person convicted over the cash haul, Jason Reed, was a volunteer with a Dublin soup run, but also a trusted high-level member of the Kinahan cartel and was jailed for seven years in July of 2020.

Reed (40) had pleaded guilty to money laundering and possessing the proceeds of crime of almost €400,000 in Drogheda.

Rooney and partner Catherine Dawson continue to be listed as the directors of EBT Executive Travel Limited on the company register.

A website for EBT Executive Travel is still live but the number listed for bookings is no longer active.

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