Page last updated at 07:28 GMT, Tuesday, 31 January 2006

PSNI try to hold on to poker cash

Poker table
Police took more than 20,000

The police are to try to hold on to money seized during a raid at a private club in Belfast at the weekend, while an investigation is carried out.

The money, thought to be more than 20,000, was found during a search of the Cavendish Club on Corporation Street on Saturday night.

A poker game was taking place in the club at the time.

The police are to lodge a Proceeds of Crime application at Belfast Magistrates Court.

The owner of the club had already said he was considering legal action after the raid.

Police ordered up to 200 players - including doctors and lawyers - to stop playing.

They are now demanding their money back from the police and believe they were doing nothing illegal.

Some described it as "something out of a gangster movie".

The club is well known in poker circles and has hosted the online Texas Hold'em poker Open and is often featured on Sky TV.

Club owner Sean Murphy said "a number of armed policemen raided the premises".

He said "the law is not clear on this" issue and was looking forward to an imminent court case in England which may provide clarification.

Club owner Sean Murphy
These are businessmen, professional types and people from all walks of life sitting down having a game of poker - they are not used to having squads of policemen charging up the stairs at them
Sean Murphy
Club owner

"There was just over 20,000 - which was the prize money we had collected for the tournament on Saturday night," he said.

"Looking into the room, I saw upwards of 15-20 policemen and I was subsequently told there was the same number downstairs - they were armed and in riot gear.

"They just marched in and went up the stairs. It was quite frightening," he told the BBC.

"These are businessmen, professional types and people from all walks of life sitting down having a game of poker - they are not used to having squads of policemen charging up the stairs at them."

Mr Murphy said the premises did not serve alcohol, just tea and coffee.

"The Cavendish Club has been open for a couple of years in Belfast - it is a private club catering for the poker fraternity in Belfast and Northern Ireland in general.

"I spoke to a senior police officer when we opened... because the Gaming and Lotteries Act (NI) is a little bit of a grey area.

"The senior policeman assured me that if there were any concerns he would be in touch with me.

If anyone has a complaint to make about the actions of any police
PSNI spokesman

"Since nothing transpired after that we assumed that everything was in order."

A solicitor for Mr Murphy, Kevin Winters, told the Belfast-based Irish News: "He is at a loss as to why the police should be so heavy-handed."

A PSNI spokesman said: "The police carried out a planned search of premises in Corporation Street in Belfast under the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (NI) Order 1985.

"They seized cash and a number of items. If anyone has a complaint to make about the actions of any police officer, they should contact the Police Ombudsman's office."



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