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December 22, 2004

12/22/04 - The €30m Inside Job

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04

BT 12/22/04 The €30m Inside Job –V(2)
BT 12/22/04 Robbery Casts Cloud Over Talks
BB 12/22/04 The Human Factor In Bank Robberies
BT 12/22/04 Attack On Catholic Youth Is Sectarian
WP 12/22/04 Emigrants 'Trapped' In U.S. At Christmas

TV 12/21/04 150 Years Of The National Gallery –VO

The View Presents: Moving Pictures - Tonight's programme celebrates
150 Years Of The National Gallery, with memories of the gallery in
the words of contributors to RTÉ's 'Moving Pictures' and a personal
view of the gallery from artist Noel Sheridan. Joining John Kelly
in studio are curator and writer Declan McGonagle, author and
broadcaster Fintan O'Toole and art historian Yvonne Scott.


See video at:

Investigation into North bank raid continues - Michael Fisher
reports as the PSNI probes the massive bank robbery at the Northern
Bank in Belfast

The €30m Inside Job –V(2)

Police suspect gang behind record bank haul had confidential

By Tom Brady
22 December 2004

Inside information helped raiders pull off a €30m bank robbery -
the biggest ever in Ireland and one of the biggest anywhere.

Senior police officers last night admitted they had no firm leads
on who was responsible for the massive raid on the Northern Bank's
cash holding depot in the centre of Belfast.

They had no prior intelligence suggesting a huge heist was in the
offing and the list of likely suspects ranges from republican and
loyalist paramilitaries to organised crime gangs in Britain.

But senior detectives are convinced the gang of more than a dozen
raiders had vital inside knowledge that helped them target senior
officials at the bank and then circumvent the sophisticated network
of security codes and systems.

The full scale of the robbery has yet to be established and the
haul could reach a staggering €45m.

Most of the cash taken by the raiders was in used sterling notes
from Northern Ireland banks which are permitted to print their own.
It is hoped this will create a problem for disposal of the money as
such notes are not generally accepted in Britain and would be very
noticeable if put through the banking system in any country.

The gang is believed to have left behind bundles of crisp new notes
which were intended for ATM machines in the bank's 95 branches
because they were numbered and easy to trace.

PSNI assistant chief constable Sam Kinkaid, who is leading the
police investigation, said: "This was not a lucky crime. This was a
well organised crime."

The robbery got under way on Sunday night when masked men arrived
at the homes of two senior Northern Bank officials, at Dunmurry in
south Belfast and the Co Down village of Loughinisland.

One official and his wife were taken from their house while the
second official and his family were abducted from the other and
both groups were removed to an undisclosed location, without
heating, where they were held for more than 24 hours.

The bank officials were ordered to go into work on Monday morning
and behave normally throughout the day. They were warned their
families would suffer if they raised the alarm.

Internal bank security systems are devised to combat a robbery
where an executive has been kidnapped but the raiders knew the
obstacles they had to face and, at the close of business on Monday,
they met up with the officials and made their way into the bank.

Police estimate that loading the cash into a lorry parked outside
in Wellington Street, off Donegall Square West and opposite City
Hall, took at least two hours but despite the intense toing and
froing no suspicions were raised at the bank.

Officers pointed out last night that thousands of Christmas
shoppers were on the streets at the time and appealed to anyone who
spotted somebody acting suspiciously to contact the police.

A team of detectives has also begun studying CCTV footage taken
from cameras in and around the bank in an effort to trace the
getaway route of the van which turned into Queen Street and then
headed towards the M1 out of the city.

As the raiders transferred the huge cash haul to their hideout, the
shaken officials were reunited with their families. One hostage was
treated in hospital for hypothermia after being held in sub zero

The robbers struck just a week after the Northern Bank's sale to
Denmark's biggest bank, Danske. But until the handover is completed
in February, its 95 branches are still owned by the National Bank
of Australia.

Source: Irish Independent


Robbery Casts Cloud Over Talks

By Noel McAdam
22 December 2004

The Northern Bank raid could disrupt the delicately poised
political negotiations, the Irish government has warned.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said efforts to restore devolved
government could be hurt if police linked the operation to the
Provisional IRA.

Neither the PSNI nor Government has ruled out paramilitary
involvement in the theft - already the biggest bank robbery in UK
and Irish criminal history.

Direct Rule Minister Ian Pearson said it was too early to pinpoint
responsibility for the robbery.

But SDLP deputy leader, Alasdair McDonnell, said people would find
it hard to believe the massive kidnap operation was carried out
without paramilitary involvement "at some level".

"People are very worried that we have a Mafia culture spiralling
out of control, with huge robberies and families held hostage in
the most traumatic of circumstances. Families have been seriously
traumatised and distressed after being held overnight by armed
gangs," he said.

The South Belfast MLA said it was clear paramilitaries have carried
out this sort of raid before. "Dissident republicans have held
hostages and done a series of massive raids in Strabane.

"The Provisional IRA have carried out huge armed robberies
including the one at the Makro store in Belfast, and it is common
knowledge that loyalists are involved in kidnap robberies."

Mr McDonnell said denials from any of the paramilitary
organisations could not be taken at face value. "When the Irish
people voted for the Good Friday Agreement, they agreed that the
paramilitaries should be released from jail and go quietly into

"They did not vote for the gold-plated pension plans that some
paramilitaries are now seizing for themselves," he said.

Stormont Security Minister Ian Pearson said, however: "It's too
early to say who was responsible for this robbery."


The Human Factor In Bank Robberies

Bank robbers may be the elite of the criminal fraternity, but over
the decades the crime has become an increasingly risky one,
offering less guarantee of ill-gotten gains than other forms of
stealing such as internet hacking or white-collar fraud.

Increased CCTV, including camera programmes that can read the
facial profile of those entering a bank, make the masked and armed
demand for money an increasingly risky proposition.

Nowadays a bank is more likely to be separated from its money by
computer hackers sitting behind a screen thousands of miles away.

Security expert Ian Hopkins, from firm Carratu International, sees
it as significant that the raiders in the Belfast Northern Bank
heist on Tuesday took two managers and their families hostage.

There's no point taking that amount of money unless you're going
to spend it, and if you start spending it, it will be noticed

Ian Hopkins, Carratu International

Mr Hopkins pointed out that straightforward shotgun robberies don't
work any more.

He observed: "You can have all the locks and combinations in the
world, but you can't eliminate the human element - that's the
weakest link."

The security expert added: "Robbers could have problems getting rid
of the cash.

"The bill serial numbers will not have been noted, but there's no
point taking that amount of money unless you're going to spend it,
and if you start spending it, it will be noticed."

'Reassuring staff'

He said bank operations will not be disrupted, with, at most, 48
hours of cash problems. Mr Hopkins also believed the insurance
firms would pay up "without a murmur".

"One of the main problems for the bank going forward will be to
reassure staff," he said.

John Henderson, who worked for the Northern Bank for 25 years, says
the bank follows specific procedures.

"The one thing about banks is no one person has the authority to
walk away with money.

"There is dual control in every situation, with two keys to open
every door."

As well as the issue of serial numbers being potentially traced,
many banks also have dye canisters that can be activated when cash
is stolen.

The tactic of holding a bank employee is not a new one, but an
indication of how harder it is to get away with a 'conventional'
bank robbery.

In Manchester this autumn, a family was held hostage overnight as
three men forced John Diggle, manager at Nat West in Whitefield on
Bury New Road, to open the safe.

Mr Diggle and his family feared for their lives throughout this
frightening experience, as the men made off with a "substantial
amount" of cash from the branch, say police.

Terrorist funds

At the height of the Troubles banks in Northern Ireland were
regularly robbed by paramilitary groups as a means of topping up
their coffers.

The group with the biggest reputation for mounting bank robberies
was the IRA, which in the past has gained access to high-security
targets by taking the families of employees hostage.

Police in May accused it of taking staff hostage at Northern
Ireland's biggest retail superstore, and stealing more than £4m in
goods loaded onto a truck.

On this occasion police have said a well-organised criminal gang is
involved, but they said it was "far too early" to say whether they
had "any connections to a paramilitary group".

However, retired Northern Ireland police Special Branch head Bill
Lowry said he suspected the Provisional IRA was involved.

"They have the capability, more than any other organisation, of
carrying out this type of crime and dealing with £20m."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/12/21 18:03:22 GMT


Attack On Youth Sectarian

22 December 2004

Larne police believe an attack on a 15-year-old boy on his way to a
Catholic school in the Co Antrim town was sectarian.

The PSNI issued an appeal for information as they revealed details
of the assault on the St Comgall's pupil which happened at Glenarm
Road at 8.30am on Friday last.

Police say he was attacked by two males wearing Glasgow Rangers


Emigrants 'Trapped' In U.S. At Christmas

by Marian Harrison

One Sligo mother must face this Christmas without her three
children, who live in the United States. The siblings who are
undocumented in the U.S are afraid to leave the country for fear
that they would not be allowed to re-enter. Deputy Michael Ring
told the Western People that he had been contacted by a number of
families whose families were unable to return home for the festive

"Many people in the U.S who would love to return home for the
festive season but they are afraid to leave."

With the introduction of electronic passports and fingerprinting of
those entering or leaving the U.S. thousands of young Irish
undocumented emigrants have become virtual prisoners in their
adopted country, according to the Westport deputy.

"Because of recent changes in America undocumented Irish people
can't get a driving license without their papers so that creates a
problem internally and there's a problem leaving the country with
fingerprints being taken."

Deputy Ring wants to see the legislation for a Guest Worker Program
implemented, where undocumented people who can prove that they have
a job can qualify for a temporary three-year visa.

"This program has been promised but no progress has been made to
date," insisted Deputy Ring.

The Westport politician intends to lead a delegation to Washington
in the New Year to lobby the Irish-American politicians.

"People from my county are illegal in the U.S. and are being caught
and put into jail. It can take them a number of weeks to be
released b but they are not criminals," said Deputy Ring.

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
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