Two men were jailed after police discovered £1.2m of heroin and more than £500,000 in cash hidden at their homes. Tightly-packaged heroin parcels were found stashed underneath floorboards, concealed by a carpet, in Lawrence Flaherty’s loft.
According to the Liverpool Echo, police had watched taxi driver Peter Byrne hand over a suitcase full of rolled-up banknotes to the debt-ridden alcoholic. Officers raided Flaherty’s flat in St Helens and uncovered 12 kilos of heroin, with an estimated street value of £1.2m.
When asked if there was anything in his home that shouldn’t be there, he replied: “Yes, half a million pounds in that suitcase.”
Liverpool Crown Court heard Flaherty, 52, was a “custodian”, while Byrne, 57, was a “courier” for a Class A drugs gang.
Officers spied on Flaherty as he left his flat in Scholes Lane, then walked to Heath Street, at 11.34am on August 18 this year. He met Byrne, who handed him a black suitcase containing £535,830 of dirty money, which he pulled back to his flat.
Dad-of-three Byrne parked his car nearby, then followed Flaherty into his property, now carrying a black holdall.
William Baker, prosecuting, said the pair left the flat and drove off in Byrne’s car at 12.34pm.
Police stormed Flaherty’s home at 5.50pm and found him in the kitchen, when he confessed about the money. Officers searched his flat and recovered the drug stash, which he immediately conceded was heroin.
A further £2,340 in cash was found in his flat, before officers set off to Byrne’s home in Ardennes Road, Huyton. They discovered £34,000 in the glove box of his car, plus £2,750 in cash and 7,400 in Turkish Lira inside his house.
Officers also visited Byrne’s dad’s home, where they found a further £2,000 belonging to him.
When interviewed by police, Byrne said he was a taxi driver, but initially made no comment about the money. He claimed to have taken two empty bags into Flaherty’s flat, before admitting he was given the cash and asked to “pass it on”.
Mr Baker said: “When asked questions about where the cash came from, he made no comment.”
Flaherty, who has no previous convictions, admitted possession of heroin with intent to supply and concealing criminal property
Kate Morley, defending, said apologetic Flaherty worked as a labourer, but when a relationship ended, turned to alcohol “as a coping mechanism”.
She said he borrowed “a couple of thousand pounds” and was “somewhat pressured, because he couldn’t pay back the debt, into storing drugs and cash.”
Byrne, from Huyton, whose last conviction was for dishonesty in 1981, admitted two counts of money laundering. Jonathan Duffy, defending, said Byrne was a “family man” with three grown-up children, who worked hard as a taxi driver.
He said: “Unfortunately for him, money became tight and he made the catastrophic decision to agree to extend his transportation business to include moving money around.”
Judge Norman Wright jailed Flaherty for seven years and four months. He said: “People involved in the chain of supply of Class A drugs deal in misery and degradation of the people in thrall to those drugs.
“Not infrequently, those people die. Approximately 2,000 people in England and Wales in the last year died from taking Class A drugs.
“That is why these are serious offences and people who are involved in dealing in this evil trade deserve condign punishment.”
Jailing Byrne for three years, the judge said he was “the perfect cover” for moving dirty cash.
He said: “Of course a taxi driver is someone who will be seen all about any town or city, going anywhere, at any time, and really not being questioned. You were under the radar.”