Jersey classic money laundering case revisited (2003-2006) “You cannot turn a blind eye to the obvious”!!!
On 5 June 2003 Yvonne Edmond-O’Brien was convicted by the Royal Court (Sir Richard Tucker, Commissioner, and Jurats Rumfitt and Alio) of
- BEING CONCERNED IN AN ARRANGEMENT TO LAUNDER THE PROCEEDS OF DRUG TRAFFICKING by her husband Michael O’Brien,
- ’’KNOWING OR SUSPECTING" that he was carrying on drug trafficking, contrary to article 17(1)(a) of the Drug Trafficking Offences (Jersey) Law 1988.
The Court sentenced her to seven years’ imprisonment, made a confiscation order and imposed a sentence in default. She appealed against both conviction and sentence.
On 12 November 2003 the Court of Appeal (Southwell P, Gloster and Vaughan JJA) set aside the verdict, sentence and confiscation order.
IN 2006, The Attorney-General, by special leave, appealed to Her Majesty in Council.
ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR JERSEY –V- O'BRIEN (JERSEY) - Attorney General for Jersey v. O'Brien (Jersey)  UKPC 14 (14 February 2006) - Privy Council Appeal No 50 of 2005 - Her Majesty’s Attorney General for Jersey Appellant v. Yvonne Edmond O’Brien Respondent – FROM THE COURT OF APPEAL OF JERSEY - REASONS FOR DECISION OF THE LORDS OF THE JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL, OF THE - 14th February 2006, Delivered the 22nd March 2006
At the conclusion of the hearing the Board announced that it would humbly advise Her Majesty that, for reasons to be given later, the appeal against the setting aside of the conviction should be allowed and the appeal against sentence remitted to be heard by the Court of Appeal.
These reasons now follow.
Mr O'Brien ran a butchery business and Mrs O'Brien kept a lodging house.
There is no dispute that from about the middle of 1996 Mr O’Brien, under cover of his butchery business, started importing drugs into Jersey on a large scale and selling them to retail dealers and pushers. This continued until his arrest in Portsmouth on 15 September 1998. He pleaded guilty to a number of drug charges in Portsmouth Crown Court on 19 February 1999 and was sentenced to six years imprisonment. In May 2002 he was charged in Jersey with laundering drug money and pleaded guilty to two charges.
Mr O’Brien maintained a number of bank accounts. Some were designated as business accounts for the butchery business and four were personal accounts with different banks. Mrs O’Brien, who described herself in evidence as ’’very organised" and "good with figures", was responsible for paying money into the butchery accounts and her husband’s personal accounts. She would take the money to the banks and fill in the deposit slips.
During the period 1995 to 1998 there was a substantial increase in the amount of money deposited in the business accounts:
- 256,962 in 1995,
- 377,801 in 1996, 434,752 in 1997 and
- 336,191 (the equivalent of 448,254 in a full year) in the first nine months of 1998.
But the forensic accountant called by the prosecution accepted that if these had been the only sums of money involved, Mrs O’Brien might reasonably have thought only that the butchery business was becoming more prosperous.
The payments into personal accounts were more difficult to explain. These had amounted in
- 1995 to 104,880 but they increased to
- 302,455 in 1996,
- 1,191,680 in 1997 and
- 607,754 in the first nine months of 1998.
Some of these payments could be explained by reference to the sale of the O'Brien’s house and work done on their new home, but the forensic accountant could find no explanation for
- 870,729 deposited in the personal accounts in 1997 and
- 537,388 deposited in 1998.
- 699,330 of the money deposited in 1997 and
- 451,943 of the money deposited in 1998 had been in cash.
There were other unusual features about the deposits.
Until the middle of 1996, Mrs O'Brien used to go to the bank once or twice a week. But in 1997 and 1998 it was often three times a week or more. Even more significantly, she began regularly to visit two and sometimes three banks on the same day. In 1997 there were 89 and in 1998 56 occasions on which she went to more than one bank.
The Jurats were invited to infer that she had made the deposits, particularly of cash, with different banks and on different days so that no single deposit would be large enough to attract attention.
Another feature of the deposits was the large number of 50 notes; these are not commonly used by customers in butchers' shops; indeed, they were at the time and remain rarities in ordinary retail trade. But there was evidence that they were standard in the wholesale drug trade.
The numbers of 50 notes paid in by Mrs O’Brien were
- 1,490 in 1997 and
- 1,159 in 1998.
The prosecution also relied upon what was said, for that time, to be a disproportionately large number of 20 notes. After the arrest of Mr O’Brien, the Jersey police searched the matrimonial home.
Detective Constable Grieve gave evidence that he found 19,000 in cash in various places.
He asked Mrs O'Brien about 3,000 which he found in a dresser in the dining room and she said that it belonged to "friends”, whom she declined to name, for whom she and her husband paid bills so that they did not have to pay tax.
Interviewed by the police, she said that she had never noticed the increases in cash going into the accounts, assumed that the money came from the butchery business, never asked why she was paying so much money into the personal accounts and never thought it odd to pay substantial sums into different accounts on the same day.
Both Mr and Mrs O’Brien gave evidence.
Mrs O'Brien largely repeated the explanation she had given to the police. But she denied having said that the money in the dresser belonged to friends. It was, she said, cash from the butchery and lodging house businesses. Mr O'Brien said that he had papers recording details of drug deals which, as he admitted in cross- examination, he had left "lying around” in the house.
He also said that he would count his cash (which at times amounted to 50,000) in the bedroom or downstairs. He appeared not to have taken any very elaborate precautions to prevent his wife from knowing about his activities.
But Mrs O’Brien said that she never knew that he was a drug dealer.
This and other details (such as Mrs O’Brien’s apparent lack of curiosity about her husband’s frequent trips to England) were cumulatively relied upon by the prosecution as circumstantial evidence from which the Jurats could infer that Mrs O’Brien must have known or suspected that a substantial part of the money which she regularly deposited was the proceeds of drug trafficking.