Judge orders cash stolen from takeaway be returned to owners

A judge has ruled that cash stolen from the owner of a Leitrim takeaway be returned to him after his employee was stopped in Dublin Airport with the money on him.

A forfeiture hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Vlad Emanuel Blanaru (21) told custom officers, on August 30, 2015, that he was he bringing his girlfriend to Amsterdam to buy her an engagement ring.

Affidavits before the court outlined that gardaí in Carrick-on-Shannon were satisfied that Blanaru had stolen over €7,600 from the safe of Marius Takeaway in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim the previous day. He and his girlfriend then took a taxi to Dublin Airport and bought flights to Amsterdam.

They were about to board the plane at 9.15am when custom officer Keith Markey stopped them and the cash was discovered.

Officer Markey's affidavit outlined that Blanaru of Carrick Road, Drumshanbo, claimed he had earned the cash through his work in the takeaway. He then pulled the officer aside, away from his girlfriend's earshot and said it was his intention to buy an engagement ring for her while in Amsterdam.

The couple had no return flights booked but told custom officers that they intended to come back to Ireland within the week. Blanaru was holding over €5,000 while his girlfriend had over €1,000.

She claimed Blanaru had handed her the cash and asked her to mind it.

John Byrne BL, prosecuting, told Judge Melanie Greally that a total of €6,955 was seized from the couple on suspicion that it represented the proceeds of crime.

The gardaí in Carrick-on-Shannon then contacted Officer Markey on September 7, 2015 and informed him that Riza Calla of High Street, Drumshanbo, had alerted them to a theft at the takeaway he owned.

He said €7,600 had been stolen from the safe, €3,000 of which belonged to an employee Ioannis Feidakis, also of Carrick Road, Drumshanbo. Mr Calla suspected that Blanaru had stolen the cash.

Counsel asked the court to find that the cash represented the proceeds of crime in that Blanaru had stolen it but asked Judge Greally to refuse the “usual application” to forfeit the money to the State.

Mr Byrne asked the judge to instead order that the frozen cash be released and returned to the solicitor representing Mr Calla and Mr Feidakis.

Judge Greally said she had “no difficulty concluding the cash constituted a theft from Mr Calla and Mr Feidakis” and ordered that it be “returned to its rightful owners”.