Ted Cunningham Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering
Nearly five years after Ted Cunningham was originally convicted of laundering £3 million in connection with the now notorious December 2004 "Northern Bank Robbery", charges of which he denied, Mr. Cunningham, on 26 February 2014, pleaded guilty to two of the original ten charges.
In February 2005, two months after the robbery, Gardaí obtained a warrant to search Cunningham's home and found £2.3 million in his basement. During his trial on charges of money laundering, Cork Criminal Court heard that there was premeditation and planning involved in the offences committed, that Cunningham "stored money, he gave money to others to store, bought cars, used money as security, and obtained euro value for the northern sterling" and that he "persisted to the end with a concocted alibi." However, his conviction was quashed on appeal due to a technical flaw in the warrant used to search his home. As a result, the search warrant was found to be invalid by the Court of Criminal Appeal, and while a retrial was ordered on nine of the ten charges, the tenth - relating to the £2.3 million found in his home - was not to be retried.
The two charges to which he pleaded guilty this month relate to the offence of money laundering while being reckless as to whether the money handled represented the proceeds of crime. While these charges represent much lesser values than the amount he was originally convicted of laundering, the plea represents a victory for the DPP.
As noted by Compliance Ireland previously, a robust anti-money laundering framework is a vital part of a regulated firm's governance structure if it is to avoid a monetary or other administrative sanction from the Central Bank of Ireland. Other competent authorities include the Department of Justice, the Law Society of Ireland for solicitors and the Bar Council of Ireland for barristers.
Firms are required to carry out appropriate levels of customer due diligence on customers prior to entering into a business relationship with them. Firms must also carry out ongoing monitoring on existing customers to ensure that customer activity is in line with the firm's knowledge of the customer, its business and patterns of transactions. This includes a requirement to identify the source of funds for transactions involving the customer and even the source of wealth of the customer or beneficial owner in some cases. These requirements are designed to allow a firm to identify suspicious activity that may be linked to money laundering or terrorist financing and to make a prompt report to the Gardaí and Revenue Commissioners where deemed appropriate.
The Central Bank of Ireland has to date imposed financial penalties on three firms for breaches of anti-money laundering legislation. In the case of UBS International Life Ltd in June 2012, breaches included failures to adopt adequate policies and procedures in relation to the identification of suspicious transactions. Community Credit Union was fined in December 2012 for breaches which included failures to monitor dealings with customers with whom it had business relationships including scrutinising transactions and source of wealth or funds for transactions on an ongoing basis. Controls in place must allow staff to take appropriate measures to ensure that they know the customer and that the customer's activities make sense. Where a staff member has any suspicion of money laundering, they must be aware of and have recourse to an internal reporting procedure.