DERRY — Assets worth over UK£5 million, including properties and back accounts linked to Protestant Loyalist paramilitaries, have been frozen by Northern Ireland’s main criminal assets agency. Late on Wednesday night, the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) seized several properties in Northern Ireland and in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, as well as an apartment on the Cote D’Azur in France. In total, 49 properties came under the remit of the ARA action, which had been permitted by Belfast’s High Court. Eight bank accounts were also frozen. The assets belonged to an individual named Colin Armstrong, who has allegedly been involved in drug smuggling from the continent, with links to crime groups based in Belgium. Armstrong is said to have links with two Protestant paramilitary groups – the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), and the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), which split from the UVF in the early 1990s. Properties seized were in the Portadown and Craigavon areas south of Belfast. Both towns are LVF strongholds.
DUBLIN – Speculation is growing that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had a part in the theft of over €2 million in Dublin on Monday morning. In an operation bearing similarities to the theft of some €38 million from Belfast’s Northern Bank last December, an armed gang abducted a family on the north side of Dublin on Sunday night, before stealing what is estimated to be between €2 and €4 million from a security van. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern took the unusual step of commenting on what is ostensibly a criminal act, saying the robbery was the work of a well-organized gang. “It certainly does have the hallmarks of a well-organized paramilitary group, but as you know, paramilitary groups have moved into criminality and do their own thing as well,” he said.
DERRY — The Orange Order, the largest non-religious Protestant organization in Ireland, has severed its century-old formal link to the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), adding strength to the claim that moderate forces in Northern Ireland have been put on the defensive. At a Saturday meeting of the Order’s ruling council, or Grand Lodge, the organization decided that political change meant that a link with any political party was no longer in its interests. Speaking after the meeting, Orange Order Grand Master Robert Saulters said: “The Loyal Orange Institution will continue to lobby for the unionist cause as events require and we will seek to establish good relationships with all those engaged in the political interests of the unionist people.”
DERRY — In a bizarre twist to the McCartney murder saga, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) late on Tuesday offered to shoot those it believes killed the 33-year-old Belfast man on 31 January. In a lengthy statement, the organization said that it had conducted its own internal investigation into the killing. It concluded that four men, two of whom were IRA members, bore greatest responsibility, and offered to execute these alleged perpetrators. McCartney’s family immediately distanced themselves from the statement, saying that they wanted justice for their brother via the court system. McCartney, a Catholic from the IRA stronghold in Short Strand, an enclave in mainly pro-British east Belfast, was stabbed repeatedly before having his throat slashed outside a Belfast bar on 31 January.
DERRY — On Friday Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), suspended seven of its members for their alleged involvement in the murder of Belfast Catholic Robert McCartney. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said those suspended were named by McCartney’s family as having been involved in the murder. McCartney’s sisters appeared to a standing ovation at the Sinn Féin annual conference in Dublin over the weekend. The conference, which ordinarily would have celebrated the centenary of the founding of the party, was overshadowed by the fallout from McCartney’s violent death in Belfast on 31 January and the alleged theft by the IRA of some €38 million from a Belfast bank in December.
DERRY — Northern Ireland police arrested a 29-year-old man was arrested in Belfast on Tuesday in connection with the murder of Robert McCartney. The suspect handed himself in to police in the company of a solicitor, but was released early on Wednesday without charges. The man, whose name has not been released, was not one of the three expelled last Friday by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on suspicion of their involvement in the McCartney murder. It is believed that 12-15 men were involved in the killing. Earlier on Tuesday, Hugh Orde, head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), said all three men dismissed from the IRA had left the country. However, the PSNI later retracted that statement.
DERRY — The Provisional IRA expelled three of its members who are suspected of involvement in the brutal 31 January killing of Robert McCartney outside a pub in east Belfast, the main city in Northern Irealnd. A fourth man was arrested after handing himself in to the police, and was later released without charges. In a lengthy statement issued on Friday night, the IRA conceded that “some Republicans” had been involved in the murder, and that “any intimidation or threats in the name of the IRA to any person who wishes to help the McCartney family will not be tolerated.” McCartney, 33, was stabbed and beaten outside Magennis’ pub near the nationalist Short Strand enclave of east Belfast, after getting involved in a dispute with a prominent local IRA man.
DERRY — Northern Ireland Secretary of State Paul Murphy told the British House of Commons on Tuesday that he would extend sanctions against Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), for a year. Murphy said Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland Assembly grant, worth some £120,000 (about €173,000), would be suspended for an additional 12 months. The decision comes in the wake of the latest report from the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) accusing the IRA of being behind the theft of around €33 million from a Belfast bank in December. The IMC recommended imposing financial penalties on Sinn Féin. The commission was set up by the Irish and British governments to monitor paramilitary activity. An earlier IMC report, which detailed IRA involvement in smuggling and smaller robberies, led to the initial application of the sanctions.
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.
DERRY — Police in the Irish Republic have arrested seven people as part of an investigation into Irish Republican Army (IRA) money-laundering. Euro and sterling notes worth a total of €3.6 million were seized in capital Dublin and in Cork, and further police raids were ongoing areas in the midlands and east of the country. One raid on Thursday morning recovered £2 million (nearly €2.9 million) from a house in rural Cork. Senior detectives from Northern Ireland’s police were in Dublin on Friday for a security meeting with their counterparts in the Republic.