Suspended sentence for former Air Corps member who let bank account be used for money laundering
Posted on 15th November 2022 at 22:01
Judge takes into consideration mitigating factors including guilty plea, co-operation with gardaí and compliance with the Probation Service
A former member of the Irish Defence Forces who allowed his bank account to be used for money laundering has walked free after being handed a fully suspended sentence.
Ian Coughlan (46), of Newcastle Manor Close, Newcastle, Co Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four charges of engaging in possessing a total of €159,250, believing or being reckless as to whether it was the proceeds of crime, at an Allied Irish Bank account and a Bank of Ireland account on dates between June and October 2016.
Imposing sentence on Tuesday, Judge Melanie Greally said while money laundering cases motivated by the prospect of financial gain result in a custodial sentence, that would not be appropriate in this instance.
Judge Greally handed Coughlan a three-year prison sentence, fully suspended, on strict conditions due to the significant and exceptional features of this case.
She noted Coughlan had been approached by third parties at his gym and offered a financial incentive, which he never received, to provide them with his bank details.
While the prosecution accepted that Coughlan’s actions were reckless, Judge Greally said he must have known criminal activity was likely, even if he did not know the details.
She noted that Coughlan had worked in the Irish Air Corps and been exposed to a toxic level of chemicals during this period.
Judge Greally said Coughlan’s mental health had deteriorated between 2015 and 2018 and this may have contributed to his involvement in these events. He also has medical issues.
Det Garda Shane Fitzsimons told Sinéad McMullan BL, prosecuting, that gardaí were contacted in relation to a fraudulent payment of €39,251 to Coughlan’s AIB bank account.
The transaction related to a transfer of funds made by a Turkish aviation company to what it believed was a Ukrainian supplier.
The company had been contacted days previously and asked to change the bank account details for their supplier. They became aware it was a fraud when the money was never received.
Gardaí secured a warrant to search Coughlan’s home using the information provided by the bank and he was arrested there on May 17th, 2017.
Det Garda Fitzsimons said while Coughlan was being detained for questioning, further information was received in relation to a similar fraud.
A French plastics company transferred €120,000 into Coughlan’s Bank of Ireland account after the company was told to change their supplier’s bank details.
Coughlan told gardaí in interview that he was contacted by some Nigerian men who wanted to use his bank account to set up a business. He was told he would get 10 per cent of the cash lodged into the account.
Coughlan met a person in a phone shop and gave them his bank cards and login details. He said he was told “someone needed money to get into Ireland” and Coughlan admitted he thought there was “something fishy about it”.
He said the same people then contacted him in relation to the second company. He never got his 10 per cent cut from the previous fraud and he was told that when the French transactions went through he would get all the cash and an additional 10 per cent.
Det Garda Fitzsimons said that in relation to the second fraud, Coughlan was instructed to go into his branch and transfer a total of €30,000 into four different bank accounts.
It was accepted that Coughlan was not involved in the fraud itself. Coughlan has no previous convictions and has not come to recent Garda attention.
An extensive medical history was put before the court alongside a probation report and several testimonials on behalf of Coughlan.
Setting a headline sentence of five years, Judge Greally took into consideration the mitigating factors including Coughlan’s guilty plea, his co-operation with gardaí and his compliance with the Probation Service over the last 12 months. She imposed a sentence of three years, fully suspended on strict conditions.
She noted that Coughlan had brought €12,000 to court as an expression of remorse.
Judge Greally ordered that the money be split equally between the two companies and paid within the next 30 days.
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