A street trader seeking the return of €2,500 seized in a police raid lost some sympathy in court this week (December 11 ) when it was revealed he made no such move for a laptop and satnav taken at the same time.
Sami Muntean (38 ), with an address at 121, Meadowbrook, Willow Park, Athlone applied for the return of the money taken during the warranted raid on August 16 from the house in which his brother Stefan and father Anton lives, at 115 Meadowbrook.
Sami claimed that on the day in question he was at a fair in Co Clare, and had left the money with his brother for safe-keeping.
However, Gardaí said that the money was seized with some items of “Romanian-style” jewellery - since returned - and a mobile phone which it transpired was stolen, an offence for which the father Anton has been charged.
Defending solicitor, Mr Paul Connellan, told the court he would establish his client was “a bona fide trader” with licences from local authorities, insurance, and a bank account.
He argued the search warrant was “unlawful” because it put No.115 “in the court area of Mullingar”.
“I may not have to show my hand on that just yet,” said the judge, before turning to Inspector Nicholas Farrell.
“You’ve returned the jewellery, but what justification was there not to return the money? You have an uphill battle, inspector, unless the evidence swings around,” said the judge.
Garda Chris Browne told how the money and jewellery had been in a locked room, for which no one in the house had a key, but which the judge said might have been “precautionary” because of the children in the house.
However, Gda Browne told how Anton admitted “under caution that he bought the phone from kids who called to the door, and we believed this [seized] money was his”.
He explained how Sami, Stefan and Anton were at the garda station within two hours looking for the money back.
“There’s no direct evidence this was the proceeds of crime?” asked the judge.
“No, judge, but we still have a Garmin satnav and an Acer laptop also taken that day from Anton’s room which they didn’t ask for,” said Gda Brown.
“So no one wants those back?” asked Judge Hughes.
“No, judge. We believe this money is Anton’s money from casual trading at the front door. We believe this stolen phone is one of a long list of items to come through this door,” said Gda Browne.
The court was then told how Sami had come up from Clare where he said he paid for a three-day pitch to claim the money back.
The judge noted he did so on a Friday, leaving before the most renumerative Saturday to do so.
He then put the case back for a week to see if Sami could produce a receipt from Clare County Council to prove this.
“The nature of this case is unique and novel. There is a certain plausibility about it, but I’m not indicating one way or the other,” he stated.