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Solicitor arrested after search of offices by gardaí launches court challenge

A solicitor and his firm have launched High Court proceedings aimed at quashing a search warrant which resulted in the search and seizure of confidential documents from their Dublin city-center offices last month.

The action has been brought by solicitor James Flynn, who had formerly served as a Taxing Master, an independent officer of the court appointed by the government to provide an independent and impartial process of assessing legal costs, and his company JT Flynn and Co Solicitors .

The search, where items including files and Mr Flynn’s mobile phone were seized, relates to a Garda investigation into alleged money laundering. Mr Flynn was also arrested and held for questioning by the guards for a period of two days.

The applicants claim the warrant is unlawful and have brought judicial review proceedings aimed at bringing about the end of what the solicitor and his firm claim is a “spurious investigation,” and the return of the items seized.

They also seek copies of the information relied on by the gardaí when they obtained the warrant.

They claim that the information was not given to the judge who issued the warrant, which would have undermined the basis for allowing the search take place.

‘No basis’ for arrest

Other less intrusive methods to allow the guards to examine the files should have been but were not utilized and there was no basis to arrest Mr Flynn, it is alleged.

It is claimed that the search is linked to proceedings the company has brought over its refusal to exchange damaged banknotes to the value of € 4,400, on the grounds they had been intentionally damaged.

The banknotes, it claimed, were furnished to the company as a fee payment by a long-standing client of the firm and were submitted to the bank in 2019.

The refusal resulted in the company taking High Court proceedings against the bank.

The bank referred the matter to the guards, who began an investigation into the source of the funds.

The referral was under Section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011, which makes it a criminal offense to withhold information of material assistance in preventing an offense or securing the apprehension, prosecution, or conviction of any other person for a relevant offense.

Suspected money laundering

In seeking the warrant, the guards had claimed that there were reasonable grounds for suspecting evidence of a money laundering offense were to be found at Mr Flynn’s offices.

It is claimed that the warrant issued was broad enough to include every single file in Mr Flynn’s office and shatters the confidential lawyer / client privilege in every respect.

Mr Flynn was arrested and detained despite his previous engagement with the guards on this issue and his willingness to provide information, but with the caveat that he has an overriding duty of confidentiality to his clients.

In the action, the applicants claim that the search conducted by members of An Garda Síochána’s National Economic Crime Bureau at the firm’s offices at Anglesea Street, Dublin 2, was unlawful, and in breach of their property rights and right to information.

It is also claimed that the warrant, issued by a judge of the District Court, breaches the applicants’ privacy rights or have regard for their lawyer / client relationships.

In their judicial review action against the Garda Commissioner, the DPP, Ireland and the Attorney General, and a judge of the District Court, the applicants seek various orders including one quashing the warrant.

Represented by Kevin Winters of KRW Law, the applicants also seek orders compelling the gardaí to provide the applicants with information it used to obtain the warrant.

The applicants further seek an order directing the DPP and State respondents to decide whether there has been any criminal offense committed in respect of the banknotes.

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The Law Society, the Central Bank of Ireland and the European Central Bank are notice parties to the proceedings.

The matter was briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Monday, who adjourned the case to a date later this month.

Counsel for Mr Flynn sought an urgent hearing of the leave application.

However, the judge – noting that the raid had taken place over a month ago – did not accept the matter was sufficiently urgent to be heard on Monday and adjourned the hearing to a date after Easter.

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