Housewife’s claim she saved suspect cash is rejected

Enniskillen Magistrates Court

A NEWTOWNBUTLER mother’s claim she saved €28,000 in cash out of her housekeeping allowance over 30 years has been rejected by a local court, which upheld the HMRC’s right to seize the suspect cash. 
Agnes O’Brien of Cavan Road, Drumboghanagh Glebe, Newtownbutler appeared at Enniskillen Magistrates Court on Monday where she contested an order to forfeit the cash, which was seized by HMRC from a bedroom at her home last September. 
HMRC officers carried out a search of a filling station shop on the Cavan Road in Newtownbutler on the afternoon of September 12 last. 
There they found around 2,800 cigarettes, two kilograms of rolling tobacco, and approximately 170-180 litres of alcohol from under the counter in the shop. There was no duty paid on the items. 
Having spoken with Mr McKernan, who the court was told was leasing the shop along with a room in the adjoining house, officers carried out a subsequent search on the house, which is the family home of Agnes and Raymond O’Brien.
There the officers found the €28,000, which was in bundles of €500, €200 and €100 notes, wrapped in two plastic bags inside a wardrobe in the home. 
The HMRC contended the cash was gained by illegal means in connection with the sale of the illicit tobacco and alcohol.
Disputing she had begun to tell officers at the scene the money wasn’t her’s when her husband interjected to stop her, Mrs O’Brien gave evidence to the court the money did belong to her, and she’d been intended to give it to her two children. 
Mrs O’Brien claimed that, having never held a bank account, she’d amassed the €28,000 by saving “£20 of £30 a week” from her house keeping allowance since the birth of her first child in 1987. 
She said no one but her was aware of the cash, which she intended on splitting between her children when they were old enough to buy a house.
Mrs O’Brien said she would take the money to the shop or bank to change it into larger notes as smaller notes would take up too much space, and said she had previously done so a month before the HMRC search. 
Counsel for the HMRC, Sean Paul O’Doherty, said he found it hard to believe the money had not previously been recovered by a previous HMRC search on the same house in 2015, in which €60,000 was seized. District Judge Nigel Broderick said this was circumstantial. 
Ruling in favour of the HMRC and granting their right to seize the cash, Judge Broderick said he did not find Mrs O’Brien’s evidence reliable, stating it was “vague” in parts. 
He added that if there had been a number of smaller notes with the bundles of cash it would’ve added strength to her story, but there was only the larger denominations. 

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