26 Sept 2022

Apartment linked to brothel keeper deemed the proceeds of crime

Apartment linked to brothel keeper deemed the proceeds of crime

The High Court has ruled that a Limerick apartment linked to a convicted brothel keeper and her son was acquired with the proceeds of crime.  

Ms Justice Carmel Stewart made the orders in favour of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) concerning the property in proceedings against Brazilian-born Aulicete Walsh and her son Maicon Morelli. Mr Morelli is the apartment's registered owner. The exact location of the apartment cannot be identified for legal reasons.

In her judgment on Monday, Ms Justice Stewart said she had "no hesitation" in finding that property was acquired with the proceeds of crime. 

The judge said that Mrs Walsh "had put a great deal of effort into continually flouting the law and engaging in brothel-keeping".

She had also engaged in a lifestyle, which included the purchase of holidays and relatively new cars, through criminal activity - all of which was based on a business model that takes advantage of vulnerable young women to make a profit. 

Mrs Walsh was previously convicted of brothel-keeping in Ennis and Limerick and was given an eight-month prison sentence.

Mrs Walsh, aged 55 years with an address at Clarina, Co Limerick, was previously convicted of brothel-keeping and fined €750 in 2012 at Newcastle West District Court.

The apartment in question was purchased by a bank draft in 2014 for approximately €34,000. 

CAB, arising out of a Garda investigation into brothel-keeping, obtained orders freezing the property.

CAB claimed the property was purchased with the proceeds of crime by Mrs Walsh and transferred into her son's name.

CAB sought orders under Section 3 of the 1996 Proceeds of Crime Act.

Both mother and son opposed CAB's application. They argued that just over €20,000 used to buy the apartment came from legitimate income.

If the property, which the court heard has increased in value, is sold by CAB they claimed that they should receive a percentage of the proceeds of that sale.

Mrs Walsh claimed she put €10,000 she earned in cash doing jobs such as house cleaning, minding children, working in butchers, bakers, a clinic and restaurants in Co Galway into the apartment.

Mrs Walsh came to Ireland from Brazil in 2006 and subsequently married an Irish man. 

Mr Morelli, who now resides in Brazil, claimed he was given money by his late father in Brazil which he brought to Ireland and put towards the purchase of the apartment.

He also claimed he put money, which he earned from doing various jobs when he lived in Ireland, he saved himself was also used to acquire the property.

Mr Morelli said he has never been involved in any serious criminality and had nothing to do with his mother's brothel-keeping activities. 

Dismissing the mother and son's claims, the judge said the respondents had failed to show that the property was not bought with the proceeds of crime. 

The judge said this was due to the inconsistency with Mrs Walsh's evidence, her attempts to conceal the status of the property when interviewed by the Gardaí, and the failure to provide financial and account evidence to support their claims about the property. 

While Mrs Walsh had "some legitimate income," it was clear she and her husband lived a lifestyle which required significant funds, funds that could not have accrued from her meagre income.

Any legitimate income expanded by Mrs Walsh in purchasing the property would not have been available for that use, were she not availing of her ill-gotten gains to support her daily life and preferred lifestyle, the judge added. 

In the circumstances, the judge said she was prepared to grant the orders sought by CAB.

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