A taxi driver caught transporting over €400,000 in a rucksack was being paid an average monthly wage of €4,000 by an organised crime gang, a court has heard.
Ross Hanway, of The Beeches, Archerstown Demense, Ashbourne, Co Meath, will be sentenced after he pleaded guilty to possessing €412,000 on May 26th, 2020 which was the proceeds of crime.
Giving evidence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Thursday, Detective Garda Ronan Dillon said ledgers seized by investigating gardaí showed Hanway was working for an organised crime gang which took in more than €12 million over the course of 2019.
The gang, which has operations within in the State and abroad, spent over €98,000 on encrypted mobile phone devices during the same year, the court heard.
Gda Dillon told Kieran Kelly Bl, prosecuting, that members of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Bureau got a tip-off about the movement of cash prior to arresting Hanway and a co-accused, Patrick Lawlor (54).
On the day in question, gardaí saw Lawlor leave his home at Collins Avenue West, Whitehall, Dublin 9, carrying a heavy rucksack on his back.
Lawlor then got into a taxi which pulled up alongside him without being flagged, driven by Ross Hanway.
Gardaí stopped the taxi, arrested both men and seized the rucksack which contained €412,000 in cash. Both Hanway and Lawlor had regular android phones in addition to dual-partition encrypted phones.
Gda Dillon explained these encrypted phones have a separate network and server to ordinary phones and are used by crime gangs to communicate with each other.
He said such phones have a “dummy screen” which looks like an ordinary phone, until you go into a certain app, for example, the calculator, and a different screen emerges when you enter a certain code.
When Lawlor was searched, the encryption app on the phone was open, allowing gardaí to take screenshots of messages sent and received over the previous week including communications between Hanway and Lawlor
Gda Dillon explained that on encrypted phones, the messages burn off every seven days, so even as they were taking screenshots, messages from the previous week were being wiped.
Gardaí searched Lawlor's house on foot of a warrant and found a further sum of over €400,000 in cash, including sterling and some Romanian currency.
Lawlor faces sentencing on May 9th after he pleaded guilty to the same offence as Hanway. The court heard Lawlor also faces a charge for possession of drugs.
Gda Dillon told the court that Hanway's sole involvement in this case was to do with money-laundering and not with drugs, and that he was being used by the crime gang to move money around.
The court heard that in the course of their investigation, gardaí found ledgers which gave a window into the wage-structure within the crime gang.
Hanway, whose name was entered in the ledgers under a pseudonym, was being paid around €1,250 monthly at first, rising to an average of €4,000 by 2019. Lawlor was being paid an average of €5,000 monthly.
Hanway has no previous convictions, was not known to gardaí before the incident and has not been in trouble since the offence.
Gda Dillon agreed with Pieter Le Vert Bl, defending, that Hanway was always polite, that this offence was out of character for him, and that he seems to have learnt his lesson.
Mr Le Vert said Hanway had been driving a rented taxi at the time of the offence but has since quit the taxi trade and was an apprentice electrician.
The barrister said Hanway came from a very respected family and that his parents had fostered 17 children, all of whom Hanway had always treated as his siblings.
He added Hanway has worked his whole adult life, including stints in banking and recruitment, and is an accomplished sportsman, playing GAA to senior-level and being a black belt in Taekwondo.
The court heard Hanway fathered a daughter when he was 21 and fought a four-year court battle seeking to be involved in his child’s life, but eventually relinquished his rights as he felt his daughter was being traumatised by the court experience.
Mr Le Vert said Hanway has not seen his daughter in five years, adding that he suffered from suicide ideation for a period in 2017, for which he received counselling from Pieta House.
The court heard Hanway failed to deal with his anger and betrayal and developed a serious addiction to alcohol and cocaine, spending his €32,000 taxi salary on drugs. He accrued a drug-debt, leading to his involvement in this offence.
The court heard Hanway is now drug-free, living at home with strong family support and attending counselling.
Several testimonials presented to court spoke very highly of Hanway, notably a couple who said they would always be indebted to him for helping to dissuade their son from suicide. The court also heard Hanway raised some €4,000 for student nurses during the pandemic by running 100km.
Judge Melanie Greally adjourned Hanway’s sentencing to October 6th and ordered a probation report.