By Isabel Hayes
A businessman who became involved in a €1.4 million money laundering scheme a decade ago was “duped” and ought to have known it was too good to be true, his defence counsel has told a court.
Silvio Rabbitte (55) received €350,000 after €1.4 million from unwitting German investors was transferred into an account he shared with his co-accused, Wesley Williams, in 2012, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.
Rabbitte, of Woodberry Gardens, Castleknock, Dublin, pleaded guilty to one count of impeding the apprehension of his co-accused, Wesley Williams, within the State on dates between September 2012 and July 2014. He has no previous convictions.
Williams (46) of Foxlodge Manor, Ratoath, Co Meath, has pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in relation to his involvement in the matter and will be sentenced next February.
Detective Garda Deirdre Heneghan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau told Fiona Crawford BL, prosecuting, that a garda operation investigating the transfer of €4 million from injured parties in Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands into Irish accounts was set up in October 2012.
The court heard that on October 30, 2012, four transactions totalling €420,000 came from two German accounts into an account named One Stop Shop Catering Ltd. Rabbitte and Williams were signatories of this account, the court heard.
The following month on November 9, a further €1 million came into the account from Germany.
Det Gda Heneghan said the money was transferred by German injured parties who believed they were making an investment, and who believed they would have access to the bank account they had transferred the money to. None of the money was recovered, the court heard.
The money was quickly dispersed from the One Stop Shop account, with Rabbitte receiving €350,000, the court heard. Williams also received a sum of money, along with other parties.
Rabbitte was arrested and a laptop containing some phone call recordings was seized. He told gardaí that Williams owed him money and said he only had knowledge of the €420,000 coming in to the account and not the €1 million.
The court heard that the guilty plea to impeding the apprehension of Williams was entered on the basis that Rabbitte signed a contract in the days before the money entered the account, which made it harder for Williams to be prosecuted and gave a “veneer of respectability” to the transaction.
Mark Lynam SC, defending, said Rabbitte’s culpability was on the basis of recklessness. He said Rabbitte was a successful businessman who became involved in land dealings with Williams during the Celtic Tiger era.
After initial success, these business deals started to falter and Williams owed Rabbitte a large sum of money, defence counsel said. Williams and another associate, Simon Gold, then came to Rabbitte with a proposal that they get involved in ‘trades’, whereby they would receive a commission for allowing so-called investment monies to come through their account.
Rabbitte got financial advice in relation to the matter and was told that if he was satisfied as to the legitimacy of the funds, then it could be done. Defence counsel said Rabbitte was told he didn’t need to know about the specifics of the transfer, but “from his knowledge of Mr Williams, he ought to have had a gimlet eye over the details of this”.
Mr Lynam said phone recordings taken from Rabbitte’s computer were from a phone he had lent to Williams, and included phone calls between Williams and Mr Gold in which they alluded to the fact that Rabbitte was not privy to all the details of the transaction.
“He was being duped about things,” Mr Lynam said, adding that Rabbitte “ought to have known this was too good to be true”. He said Rabbitte was anxious to have the money repaid and to be done with Williams.
Gold (59) of Windy Ridge House, Cartontroy, Athlone, Co Westmeath was jailed for seven years in 2019 after he was found guilty by a jury of money laundering, theft, deception and control of false instruments on dates between January 1, 2010 and October 22, 2012. The court heard last year that he had already been released from prison.
Judge Martin Nolan asked counsel a number of questions, including what percentage commission Rabbitte was expecting to receive and if he has since offered to pay back the €350,000 of “ill-gotten gain” he received.
The court heard this money went back into Rabbitte’s business, but that the Criminal Assets Bureau also seized €190,000.
Mr Lynam handed in a large number of testimonials from Rabbitte’s colleagues, employees, family and friends, which described how he has worked hard at his business, has 26 employees and that his life revolves around his family.
In a letter handed into court, his wife described how she was in hospital frequently during the period in question and Rabbitte was under pressure minding his three children and managing the business.
He was described as “generous to a fault”, which defence counsel said explained how Williams “insinuated himself” into Rabbitte’s affairs.
Defence counsel said Rabbitte has had the matter hanging over him for more than ten years, and that the charge he pleaded guilty to was only recently offered to him. A number of trial dates were postponed as a result of issues with the prosecution and his co-accused, but not him, the court heard.
Mr Lynam urged Judge Nolan not to impose a custodial sentence.
Judge Nolan adjourned the matter for finalisation on February 7 next year, when he said he would give his sentence after hearing the evidence in relation to William’s case. He remanded Rabbitte on continuing bail until then.
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