A spate of burglaries by gangs of youths is what led the Criminal Assets Bureau to uncover the extortion rackets being run by two convicted criminals against contractors trying to build social housing.
The bureau this week successfully froze and seized bank accounts totalling more than €250,000 from Derek ‘Dee Dee’ O’Driscoll and David Reilly. It proved to the High Court that they had accumulated their wealth through criminal means including drug dealing, tax matters and extorting money from building companies to stop anti-social attacks, arson, threats and vandalism at three sites in the Ballyfermot and Cherry Orchard areas where social housing was being built.
But the investigation that uncovered the sophisticated, brazen and lucrative extortions began when one of the men, Reilly, became a suspect in a rash of burglaries.
Crime profilers in local Garda units in west Dublin suspected Reilly of casing houses for burglary and then getting a gang of local youths to carry out the break-ins.
After raiding a property as part of their investigation, they found a bank statement belonging to Reilly which showed regular large payments into it from people connected with building companies. Further investigations then revealed what the payments were for and at that stage the CAB became more involved. Evidence was then found of money transfers between Reilly’s account, and one controlled by O’Driscoll.
The case reached the High Court this week where bank accounts to the value of more than €250,000 belonging to the men were seized by CAB.
O’Driscoll (46), of Croftwood Park in Ballyfermot, Dublin, and Reilly (36), of Croftwood Grove in Ballyfermot, had denied the money was raised by criminal means but was paid to them by providing the services of a fencing company to three sites being developed for housing in the Ballyfermot and Cherry Orchard areas.
At a sitting of the High Court in front of Justice Carmel Stewart on Tuesday, counsel for CAB, Ben O’Floinn, said that sums of €1,500 a week and €1,200 a week were being paid by construction companies to O’Driscoll and Reilly in order to maintain the safety of workers and equipment at sites, and that this money had been paid through extortion.
The court heard that at three sites there had been anti-social activity and stolen cars being rammed into fences, and that builders had equipment burned out – but that this activity stopped when Reilly approached the developers and said he could have the trouble sorted out.
It was the CAB’s case that O’Driscoll and Reilly were behind the anti-social activity to intimidate the developers into paying for it to stop.
Wider questions have now been asked as to Dublin City Council’s (DCC) knowledge of the payments or whether it recommended them. This week DCC denied paying money to O’Driscoll and Reilly.
In September 2016, when the story was first broken by the ‘Herald’, DCC said it would carry out an investigation into the allegations that builders constructing homes on its behalf were paying extortion money for security.
Meanwhile, a security expert has said that criminal prosecutions of extortion are likely to be brought against O’Driscoll and Reilly now that CAB has seized their assets.
Questions have been asked this week as to why O’Driscoll and his enforcer Reilly were not prosecuted for extortion if CAB was able to successfully gain control of bank accounts belonging to them holding more than €250,000.
“It is important to get the gang’s assets first, and then look at the criminal prosecutions, because if you go for the prosecutions first the money in the bank accounts could disappear or be diverted,” the security expert said.
“It’s possible to use the evidence gathered in the efforts to seize the assets to then proceed with a criminal prosecution, so getting the assets first makes sense.”
Asked what is now likely given the assets of O’Driscoll and Reilly have been frozen, they said CAB can put together a book of evidence, or the information could be handed to a different Garda division such as the National Bureau for Criminal Investigation.
“CAB used a proceeds of crime act application to move on these criminals, and they can now compile a file based on that for the DPP, or they can hand it over to a local unit or someone like the NCBI.
“The burden of proof is safe. It was set up that way from day one of the CAB. The onus is on the respondents to say where they got the money.
“Just because criminal proceedings were not brought yet does not mean the matter is over. It is more probable than possible that prosecutions will be sought in the near future.”