Judge rules $33,770 was proceeds of drugs

A man who had drug charges against him dropped has lost an appeal to get back $33,770 of cash seized by police 16 years ago.

Tito Smith argued before the Supreme Court that he earned the money by painting houses and selling a car, but Puisne Judge Stephen Hellman ruled that the money was more likely the proceeds from the sale of crack cocaine.

Mr Justice Hellman said: “Mr Smith produced no documentary evidence that he had ever had a car, let alone that he had sold one.

“This is the sort of evidence that he might reasonably have been expected to gather shortly after he knew that the cash had been seized.”

The court heard Mr Smith was arrested in 2002 after a search of his home revealed cash, cannabis and more than 100 grams of crack cocaine.

But the Supreme Court heard the case became dormant and the Department of Public Prosecutions decided in 2016 not to proceed with charges.

Mr Smith filed an application to recover the seized cash later that year. The application was refused on the grounds that the money was still suspected to be proceeds from the sale of drugs.

Mr Smith said in an appeal to the Supreme Court last month that the money came from legitimate sources but that he could not supply records because of the time that had passed.

He told the court the bulk of the money came from painting, carpentry and maintenance work and $8,000 came from the sale of a car.

Mr Smith said he sold the car for cash to a woman named Nicky but was unable to track her down. He admitted that some of the cannabis found in his home belonged to him, but said he knew nothing about the crack cocaine.

Mr Smith said his apartment was attached to the family home, and people would come through his bedroom on their way into the main home.

Police officers also provided evidence that there was no record at TCD of Mr Smith having sold a vehicle before the search and there were no records of payroll tax or social insurance payments in Mr Smith’s name.

Mr Justice Hellman ruled that the crack cocaine found belonged to Mr Smith.

He wrote: “The crack cocaine was found inside what I am satisfied were most likely his boots and his black leather jacket.

“There is no evidence that anyone else put it there.”

Mr Justice Hellman said he attached no weight to the lack of payroll or social insurance payments and that many self-employed carpenters and painters were in the same position.

But he pointed out: “He did not explain how his painting and carpentry business, which he accepted consisted of doing odd jobs, was able to generate the largest part of the seized cash.”

Mr Justice Hellman said he was satisfied that the money was the proceeds of the sale of illegal drugs.

He added: “I find that explanation for its provenance more probable than the alternative explanation given by Mr Smith.”

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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