– links to Bulgarian mafia groups examined
DERRY — Police in the Irish Republic recovered €634,000 in British sterling notes on Sunday night in a series of raids in the south, the midlands, and Dublin areas of the country.
These are the latest discoveries in an investigation into money laundering by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and tests are being carried out to determine whether any of the cash is part of the €38 million taken from a Belfast bank on 20 December.
The Irish and British governments claim that the IRA stole the money.
Police believe that some of those behind the laundering were working with a Bulgarian crime syndicate on plans to buy a bank or set up a front financial organization in that country. On Saturday, around UK£50,000 (over €72,500) was discovered at a Belfast sports club used by local policemen.
Hugh Orde, the head of Northern Ireland’s police, says he believes the money was planted as a diversion by the IRA, or as an attempt to lend weight to conspiracy theorists who believe that security forces carried out the December robbery to undermine Sinn Féin and the peace deal signed in 1998.
Northern Ireland’s three decades of civil conflict up to 1998 saw over 3,600 people killed, most of them civilians, as mostly Catholic Irish nationalists and republican paramilitaries, who want Northern Ireland to merge with the Republic of Ireland to the south, faced off against mostly Protestant unionists or loyalist counterparts who want to remain part of the United Kingdom. British soldiers flooded into Northern Ireland but were viewed by many nationalists as a hostile occupation force and were regularly targeted by the IRA.
Meanwhile, just ahead of the latest discoveries, Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell on Sunday claimed that Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness, and Martin Ferris, a Sinn Féin member of the Irish parliament, were all on the IRA’s Army Council.
However, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern later said “I don’t know who is on the [IRA] Army Council”.
McGuinness admitted to being a former IRA member, but vehemently denied retaining any association with the group apart from consultation in his role as Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator.
he cash discoveries will top the agenda at a meeting between Michael McDowell and the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Paul Murphy, which will be attended by police chiefs from both sides of the border.
These are the latest in a downward spiral of events and recriminations since last December, which began with the failure of talks to restore government to Northern Ireland as part of the 1998 peace deal. Now, it seems likely that Irish police are unravelling a tangled web of IRA criminal activity, while Sinn Féin, the party linked to the paramilitary group, will face increasing political pressure in the run-up to an expected British general election in May.Show