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February 20, 2005

02/21/05 – Another £437,000 Recovered

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Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005

IT 02/21/05 Another £437,000 Recovered In Garda Inquiry
IT 02/21/05 IRA Wanted Bulgarian Bank To Launder Cash, Gardai Claim
EX 02/21/05 Money Laundering Prosecutions Could Take Months
IT 02/21/05 Flynn Resigns From Property Firm & Clarifies View Of SF
IT 02/21/05 RTE In Legal Move On SF Ardfheis
EX 02/21/05 Opin: Pass Adams Hazmat Suit & Peace Process Last Rites
IT 02/21/05 Preservation Order For Viking Site Expected
IT 02/21/05 St Patrick's Parade In Doubt In Tralee
IT 02/21/05 Collins Artefacts On Show At New Museum


Another £437,000 Recovered In Garda Inquiry

By Barry Roche and Mark Hennessy

Gardaí investigating money laundering by republican paramilitaries recovered a further £437,000 (€634,000) yesterday. Some £250,000 was seized when CAB officers visited a man in his 20s in the Tullamore area of Co Offaly, while a middle-aged man in Dublin handed over a further £67,000 when he was visited by CAB detectives write Barry Roche and Mark Hennessy.

CAB also seized £120,000 from two businessmen in Munster - almost £100,000 when they visited a businessman in the Millstreet area of north Cork, and a further £20,000 in a follow-up inquiry with a businessman near Rathmore in east Kerry. They money will be sent for forensic and other technical examinations.

Yesterday's operations in Munster followed an investigation into the activities of a financial adviser from Farran in mid-Cork, and the discovery of some £2.3 million in the basement of his home last Thursday.

The cash discoveries will top the agenda of talks today in Belfast between the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, and the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Mr Paul Murphy. The meeting will be attended by the Garda Commissioner, Mr Noel Conroy, and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Mr Hugh Orde.

The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, and the Minister for Defence, Mr O'Dea, said they expected confirmation in coming days that some of the money seized in Cork came from the Northern Bank raid.

However, the PSNI remains cautious, stressing it may not be possible to trace used notes back to the bank unless original wrappings were still in place. Garda sources are also cautious about linking cash recovered in the Republic over the last five days with the money stolen in the raid.

Over the weekend, CAB officers raided an accountancy firm in an east Cork town and a solicitors' office in Cork city on foot of the seizure of documentation in the Ballincollig offices of the Farren-based financial adviser.

"We have over 20 people that we want to visit - every time somebody's name turns up on a document or a computer, they have to be checked out," said one Garda source.

Gardaí in Cork city yesterday released without charge a 47-year-old man they had arrested in Passage West on Friday afternoon after receiving a report that burnt Northern Ireland bank notes were found near his home in the south Cork town.

Gardaí believe he was asked to mind the money by a senior figure in the Provisional IRA in Cork after police began trying to recover money which the paramilitary group was trying to launder.

A file will now be prepared on the matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Meanwhile, in an interview on Today FM yesterday, Mr McDowell claimed Sinn Féin president Mr Gerry Adams, the party's chief negotiator, Mr Martin McGuinness, and Kerry South TD Mr Martin Ferris were members of the IRA's army council.

Mr McGuinness replied on RTÉ: "I was a member of the IRA many many years ago, and I outlined all of that to the Bloody Sunday tribunal. I am not a member of the IRA, I am not a member of the IRA army council. I am one of the leaders of Sinn Féin."

Asked about Mr Adams and Mr Ferris, he said: "They're not members of the IRA army council."

He accused Mr McDowell of being hostile to the peace process. "People like Michael McDowell have decided that a window of opportunity exists to attack our party, to criminalise our party in the best tradition of Margaret Thatcher."

Speaking in Navan, the Taoiseach said: "As I have said many times, I don't know who is on the army council. I was never at one of the meetings."

© The Irish Times


IRA Wanted Bulgarian Bank To Launder Cash, Gardai Claim

By Conor Lally

Gardaí believe those behind the massive money-laundering operation discovered in Cork last week were working with a Bulgarian crime syndicate for over a year on plans to buy a bank in Bulgaria or establish a building society type financial institution there.

Gardaí are satisfied the Provisional IRA was intent on taking advantage of the ambitious plan by regularly moving the proceeds of its multi-million crime empire to the Bulgarian bank, where it would be laundered and returned here.

This bank was first to be used by the Bulgarian gang to send massive amounts of money to Ireland for lodgement in banks and for investment here in property and other assets. The Bulgarian gang was anxious to gain control of a bank in their homeland quickly because they needed to use it to hide their stockpiles of money in Ireland before Bulgaria joins the EU in 2007.

After that date they believed the financial sector in Bulgaria would be subjected to so much regulation that the movement of large sums of money would be fraught with difficulty. They also feared it would be impossible to launder their money once the euro currency was introduced.

Their plan was based on a blueprint developed by the Italian mafia in recent years when it bought a very significant amount of banks in Latvia, before it joined the EU last year. The Bulgarian gang has been involved in gun-running, cigarette smuggling and trafficking in drugs and humans. Their empire stretches far beyond their native Bulgaria.

Those running the laundering operation began meeting members of the Bulgarian gang late last year but they had been in contact with them for most of 2004. The first face-to-face meetings in Ireland took place in November and since then the parties have met here three times.

"They saw the Irish contacts as a vehicle to facilitate their plans," said one senior Garda source last night.

Gardaí believe the Provisional IRA approached an Irish individual, whom they had known for some time, after the £26.5 million Northern Bank raid in December. They wanted him to launder the proceeds of the robbery.

However, they quickly learned of the plan to set up, or buy, a bank in Bulgaria. Gardaí are satisfied that the Provisional IRA saw the connection to the Bulgarians and their bank as the perfect opportunity to launder significant amounts of money for at least the next two years.

Garda sources said the Provisional IRA also believed indigenous organised crime is so widespread in Bulgaria that even if they were detected, the authorities would not have seen bringing Irish criminals to justice as a top priority.

If the plan, which was well advanced, had come to fruition the Bulgarian bank would have effectively laundered the IRA's money by supplying the organisation with a starting point paper trail for the funds from an apparently legitimate financial institution.

© The Irish Times


Money Laundering Prosecutions Could Take Months

By Cormac O’Keeffe and John Breslin

GARDAÍ yesterday said it could take months before files are sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to people arrested as part of the money-laundering investigation.

Senior officers said analysis of all the documents and computers seized, as well as forensic and visual inspection of the cash, would take a considerable length of time.

“All the action, so to speak, is done. That’s probably not going to be repeated,” said one garda source. “It’s now the boring, complex, long-term work.”

The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) will this week begin the process of examining documents and hard copy records as well as computer hard drives and disks.

CAB, recently empowered under new legislation, will be able to confiscate money and assets abroad which are suspected of being the proceeds of crime here.

CAB will pay particular attention to Chesterton Finance and eight other companies run by businessman Ted Cunningham, who was arrested last week.

The Garda Technical Bureau and the State Forensic Laboratory will begin forensic examination of the cash for fingerprints and any possible DNA evidence.

The Garda Crime and Security Section, including the National Surveillance Unit, and the Garda Special Branch, will continue surveillance and intelligence operations against possible suspects.

These are believed to include the current head of the IRA’s finance department, his predecessor, and a well-known IRA Army Council member based on the Border. So far, eight people have been arrested in relation to the investigation.

Don Blaney, in his 40s, and from Passage West in Cork, was released without charge yesterday pending a file to the DPP in relation to the alleged burning of cash.

Don Bullman, aged 30, of Fernwood, Leghenamore, Wilton, was charged with membership of an illegal organisation, the Irish Republican Army.

The Special Criminal Court heard that gardaí recovered £54,000 in a box of Daz when Mr Bullman was arrested.

The other seven were released without charge, pending files for the DPP.

Two Sinn Féin activists, Tom Hanlon, aged 37, of Passage West, and George Hegarty, who is in his 50s and from Douglas, were both released on Friday.

Mr Cunningham, a Cork-based money leader and director of at least nine companies, was arrested with his domestic partner Cathy Armstrong at their Farren home, where £2.3m sterling was seized.

Two men from Derry, Conor McLoughlin and Chris McIlhenny, were arrested along with Mr Bullman at Heuston Station on Wednesday afternoon.

The Taoiseach’s favourite troubleshooter, Phil Flynn, has already resigned chairman of the Bank of Scotland (Ireland), after it emerged he is a director of Chesterton Finance.


Flynn Resigns From Property Firm And Clarifies View Of SF

By Joe Humphreys

Former industrial relations trouble-shooter Mr Phil Flynn has stepped down as a non-executive director of the property firm Harcourt Developments Ltd as controversy continues over the Garda investigation into alleged money laundering by the republican movement.

A statement for Harcourt said: "Mr Flynn indicated to the media that he was reviewing his public and private commitments to avoid unwarranted media intrusion into the affairs of his various non-related business activities.

"Having reviewed those commitments, Mr Flynn notified his fellow Harcourt directors of his decision to resign."

Mr Flynn had already resigned as chairman of the Government committee on decentralisation, as chairman of Bank of Scotland (Ireland), and as a director of the VHI after being questioned last week by the Criminal Assets Bureau about his non-executive directorship of Chesterton Finance Company Ltd, the company at the centre of the money-laundering investigation.

Harcourt chairman Mr Pat Doherty said: "Phil has taken a course of action which reflects his esteem and consideration for Harcourt and his fellow directors and we thank him for his contribution.

"Harcourt Developments operates to the highest standards of corporate probity and good business practice and will continue to do so. Erroneous and misleading press commentary is as distracting as it is hurtful to business people who are not connected in any way to the activities being currently investigated."

Mr Flynn has denied any role in money laundering, describing Chesterton as, in his view, "clean".

Meanwhile, Bank of Scotland (Ireland) has named Sir Ron Garrick, deputy chair of HBOS plc, as its new chairman.

In a separate development, Mr Flynn moved to clarify his relationship with Sinn Féin after last week describing himself as an "unrepentant republican".

Speaking to The Irish Times, he said he remained a supporter of the party "but not in an unqualified way".

"I supported Mary Lou McDonald in the European Parliament elections but I would not support them unconditionally," said the former Sinn Féin vice president, who said he left the party in around 1987.

Mr Flynn was commenting after the former minister for health, Mr Barry Desmond, expressed "surprise" at the manner in which Mr Flynn described himself as an unrepentant republican "without qualification".

Mr Desmond, who crossed swords with Mr Flynn in the 1980s over the latter's membership of Sinn Féin, said "it surprised me because I thought that Phil Flynn's political development had grown beyond this standard statement of Sinn Féin people, that 'I am an unrepentant republican'.

"That was the kind of statement I heard in the pubs in Cork before I left Cork in 1956-57 when the original IRA campaign was starting," said Mr Desmond.

Asked why he hadn't qualified the remark, Mr Flynn replied: "I didn't get an opportunity, and secondly that report was edited. Basically what I was saying was, 'I am not running away from anything, I was not hiding anything'. That was it."

Mr Desmond also yesterday explained why he took such a strong stance against meeting Mr Flynn in 1984 when the latter had been elected general secretary of the Local Government and Public Services Union.

"I found it reprehensible that I should have to sit at a meeting with the vice-president of Sinn Féin, even though he had distanced himself from some of the bombings, and so on, and some of the extreme acts." Because he had to meet families whose fathers had been shot by the IRA, "I said at the time that it was 'an act of public hygiene' that I would not meet him," Mr Desmond said.

© The Irish Times


RTE In Legal Move On SF Ardfheis

By Martin Wall

RTÉ is taking legal advice on whether it can provide live television coverage of the the Sinn Féin Ardfheis on Saturday, March 5th, given the proximity of the conference to the by-elections in Kildare and Meath the following week.

Senior RTÉ sources told The Irish Times last night that it was unprecedented for by-elections to be held on dates so close to a scheduled ardfheis and it was on this basis that the organisation had sought legal opinion on the matter.

It is understood that other political parties had expressed concern that televised coverage of the ardfheis on the week before the by-elections could give an unfair advantage to Sinn Féin candidates.

RTÉ sources said they were expecting to receive the legal opinion within the next few days and to make a decision on the televising of the ardfheis by the middle of the week.

Sinn Féin had opted for one hour's live coverage of the ardfheis between 5.00 p.m. and 6.00 p.m. on March 5th.

An agreement on televising the event had been reached with RTÉ about three months ago, some time before the dates for the by-elections had been decided.

© The Irish Times


Pass Gerry Adams A Hazmat Suit And Give The Peace Process Its Last Rites

By Terry Prone

THE HazMat suits on the gardaí were the puzzling bit. The guardians of the peace exiting a suburban bungalow clutching bags of money in their normal uniforms would have made great pictures.

The hooded white jump-suits added an unexpected visual motif.

Up until now, Dr Marie Cassidy, the State Pathologist, had something close to exclusivity in the wearing of HazMat suits, and cool and crisp she looks in them too. Gardaí looking like Caspar the Ghost was new.

Everybody else wanted to know if the notes were from the Belfast heist. I wanted to know what the hell the police officers were expecting to find wrapped around the bank notes. Either they thought they’d be submerged in a cesspit or surrounded with tubing filled with the Ebola virus or lightly powdered in anthrax.

Maybe those allegedly storing or transporting these large amounts of dubious dosh operate an escalating series of protective measures around it.

If they’re dealing with less than a hundred thou, a Daz box will do. Especially if the Daz box carries that warning to the effect that “contents may settle in the course of delivery”. Although in this case, contents got UNsettled in the process of delivery. Unsettled enough to bring Gerry Adams home from flogging his latest book to the Spaniards.

He looks 10 years older than he looked before the Belfast bank robbery. Michael McDowell, on the other hand, looks like a delighted balloon wearing swimming goggles, because of those spectacles that pull all his features into the middle of his face. And does he ever love telling Sinn Féin to reflect. He’s like a Reverend Mother catching a novice smoking in the refectory: the instruction to reflect comes with a trailing implication that the reflection had better lead at to a spot of self-flagellation or, better still, a little hara kiri in the courtyard.

If Michael McDowell is blooming, Gerry Adams looks as if someone has unexpectedly taken three pints of blood out of him.

He sounds it, too. None of the four key elements in Gerry Adams’ communication are working any more. First element is a monotone like a dentist’s drill, no offence to dentists. Second is a bullying authoritarianism toward interviewers: “Don’t interrupt me, don’t have the cheek to use that particular phrase to me, don’t you DARE ask me that question.” Third is a threatening authoritarianism towards everybody else: “I warn you against thinking this way or making that interpretation.” Fourth is the one which served him well for more than a decade but now has got its P45: rambling, imprecise, jargon-laden, evasive twaddle.

Gerry Adams speaks a language that strangers do not know and that non-strangers aren’t that good at understanding, either. That he got away with it for a decade is at least partly due to the aura of grimly determined heroism with which he wrapped himself.

“Here I am,” that aura said, “endangering myself by challenging my own hardliners, dragging the IRA kicking and screaming to the decommissioning dump, constantly thwarted by the David Trimbles of this world. I order you to feel my mandate. Close to the IRA? Moi?”

The other reason he got away with it was the continuous nature of the peace process. Instead of peace and its consequences, the peace process was vaguely chronic. This turned it into a disembodied artefact akin to a pot plant with fungus: it might die tomorrow or with constant Gerry Daly-type intensive care, it might go on forever.

Or you could think of it as being like EastEnders, going on and on forever with increasingly improbable plot shifts straining credulity. If Dirty Den could come back from the dead, Gerry Adams mightn’t be a member of the IRA...

Wrapping himself in heroism, verbal obscurity and the prosecution of progress verging on the infinite allowed Adams to subordinate the efforts of two governments and a rake of political parties to the Doughnut Syndrome, wherein the forcing of an electoral candidate (like Mary Lou McDonald) into footage of press conferences was the real priority.

MEDIA didn’t like the Doughnut Syndrome but didn’t know how to cope with it. Or with Adams, pre-bank heist. Media has NO problem coping with Adams, post-bank heist. All bets are off, all reverence abandoned. The pot plant is in the composter and Gerry Adams is in serious need of a makeover.

Indeed, given the level of political and media hostility he faces, he might start that makeover by nicking a HazMat suit from the gardaí (or, if he’s really against criminality, by borrowing one).

None of which should cause anyone to overlook the key lesson emerging from the American presidential election, which was that media hostility to a candidate or a political party can sometimes be totally out of kilter with the attitude of the voters.

The upcoming by-elections, particularly the one in Meath, will be the litmus test, identifying the line between what’s assumed to be the reaction on the ground to recent events and the reality of that reaction. The by-elections will be the first indicator of the damage, if any, to the Sinn Féin vote.

The core Sinn Féin voter, in the eyes of other political parties, is a malcontent who gets turned on by the smell of sulphur, gets seduced by workers on the ground who are not real volunteers but paid seducers fattened on the proceeds of bank robberies, and is attracted by the army discipline of SF. That core vote - assuming it exists - may not be deterred by recent revelations.

One school of thought holds that the scale and sophistication of the bank robbery would have delighted that core vote. The same school of thought would view refusal on Questions and Answers of a Sinn Féin speaker to describe the murder of a mother of 10 children as a crime as irrelevant to that core vote, a) because it wouldn’t be caught dead watching such a programme and b) because it buys the overarching concept of the republican movement as the ‘real” government, with the consequence that what the acting Government (the one in Leinster House) defines as a crime isn’t one.

Putting the core vote to one side, however, the fact is that the drift of traditional SDLP supporters in the North towards Sinn Féin in recent years has been subtly shadowed by a less obvious drift in the south. A volatile, moving sector of the electorate has tended to give Sinn Féin candidates a tick on the ballot paper as a mark against existing politicians, as a reward for the movement of republicans away from the bomb and the bullet, and encouragement for their involvement in the peace process.

The events of the past month and the blanket coverage of those events are likely to make that “soft” Sinn Féin potential voter feel gullible.

That said, Sinn Féin’s core vote will undoubtedly hold up because the core vote has already decided that all of what has happened is a conspiracy against the republican movement.

The real danger lies in the possibility that the IRA leadership might decide to play to that belief.


Preservation Order For Viking Site Expected

By Liam Reid

The Minister for the Environment, Mr Roche, is expected to issue a preservation order on a major Viking archaeological site near Waterford city in the coming weeks, which will require the rerouting of a proposed bypass of the city, writes Liam Reid

The Woodstown site, which was discovered in 2003 by archaeologists working on the Waterford by-pass, is believed to be one of the most important Viking sites uncovered in Europe in the last 100 years.

There has been considerable uncertainty about the site since last year amid a growing campaign by archaeologists and local historians to preserve the site.

Hopes for its preservation were boosted last autumn after archaeologists discovered that the site was even larger than previously thought, and the National Roads Authority drew up contingency plans to reroute the proposed €200 million roadway around the site.

There is now mounting expectation that Mr Roche will issue a preservation order, following a visit to the site later today, after the NRA informed him it now favours a rerouting around the site.

Mr Michael Egan, spokesman for the NRA, said the authority believed the costs and delays from rerouting were less than the additional costs and delays from a major excavation of the site.

"The ball is in the Minister's court. We set out as a contingency to look at the possibility of an alternative route. Now we believe there is a viable alternative by looping around to avoid the site, and we have indicated that, at this stage, this is our preferred option," Mr Egan said.

The Woodstown site is expected to be the first occasion Mr Roche will use new powers, introduced under the national monuments legislation, where he can issue an order directing the preservation of an entire site. The order effectively bans any development on such sites.

Located on the southern bank of the River Suir, five miles west of Waterford city, Woodstown is believed to have been a major Viking town and port dating back to the ninth century.

Preliminary research has already identified over 600 features on the site, including fireplaces and house gullies. Archaeologists have also recovered 5,000 objects, including silver ingots, ships' nails, Byzantine coins and Viking weaponry.

The site has been the subject of an intense campaign by the Save Viking Waterford action group, which has been campaigning for the rerouting.

Campaigners have also been calling for a full excavation in the event of a rerouting.

The NRA has rejected comparisons between the situation at Woodstown and the proposed M3 route through the Tara valley in Co Meath.

Mr Michael Egan said that Woodstown site was one unified site, and was unknown when the route was being planned.

Tara was a known site, and the NRA believed that the newly-discovered sites along the route were not of significant importance to require a rerouting.

Archaeological experts campaigning for a rerouting of Tara have rejected this, arguing that the Tara valley should be seen as an archaeological complex of international importance.

© The Irish Times


St Patrick's Parade In Doubt In Tralee

By Anne Lucey

The traditional St Patrick's Day parade in Tralee, Co Kerry, may have to be cancelled this year because of lack of interest, according to the town's mayor.

Only eight groups out of 80 invited to take part in this year's parade had replied by the final date for registration last Monday, Mayor Johnny Wall (FF) said this weekend.

"We have to have a deadline to deal with road closure signs and so on," Mr Wall said.

He had sent invitations to all local bodies, schools and community groups.

The town council is now looking at the possibility of having a céilí in the new town square on the day, unless there is an upsurge of interest in having a parade, he said.

Mr Wall has attributed the lack of response to a general feeling that the public wanted something different from a parade.

"It's a bit jaded. It's the same thing every year, " Mr Wall said.

It might be best to hold a parade every two years, he said. Last year the parade had been one of the best ever and a large historical theme was planned for next year.

KADE, a development educational organisation, has for the past number of years organised a highly successful intercultural event, Global Tralee. Centred around ethnic dancing from a number of countries as well as singing and set dancing, it takes place at the Mount Brandon Conference Centre.

© The Irish Times


Collins Artefacts On Show At New Museum

By Barry Roche, Southern Correspondent

One of the largest collections of Michael Collins memorabilia will become accessible to the public this week when the Minister for Defence, Mr O'Dea, opens a new €400,000 military museum at Collins Barracks in Cork.

The museum - which will be officially opened tomorrow - has been a lifelong ambition for military historian Comdt Dan Harvey, supported by Brig Gen Pat Nash, GOC 1st Southern Brigade, Collins Barracks.

"We're very fortunate to have such an extensive collection of artefacts associated with Michael Collins and we've dedicated an entire room in the new museum to exhibiting these artefacts," said Comdt Harvey.

"We have Michael Collins's desk that he worked on when he was organising the IRA in 1919-1921 from a house in Mespil Road.

It still bears the marks where the drawers were forced when the house was raided by the Auxiliaries in April 1921.

"And we also have his revolver, his diary, which he had on him when he was shot, his overcoat, as well as the original cross that marked where he was shot at Béal na mBláth and a code he used - it's a very substantial and significant collection."

The museum - which is located in a former guardhouse just inside the old main gate to the barracks at the top of Military Hill - also traces the history of the fortification, which was completed in 1806.

Originally called New Barracks and later Cork Barracks, it became Victoria Barracks in 1901, only to be handed over to the IRA by Maj Bernard Montgomery - later Field Marshall Montgomery - after the treaty of 1922.

Comdt Harvey, who co-wrote a history of the barracks with Company Quartermaster Sgt Gerry White, has secured a collection of memorabilia for the museum, which is part of the Defence Forces' contribution to Cork's year as European capital of culture.

"We were very fortunate to secure an extraordinary private collection of small firearms from Paddy Bassett of Glanmire.

"It's one of the finest collections in Ireland and ranges from flintlocks used in the Napoleonic Wars right up to Sten guns from World War II," he said.

Comdt Harvey, who has a post-graduate diploma in heritage management from UCC, is particularly proud of the museum's depiction of Ireland's peace-keeping role with the UN, with exhibits dating back to Ireland's first such role in the Congo.

"That room comes full circle from the Congo right through Cyprus, the Lebanon, Kosovo, East Timor, Somalia - right up to our current role in Liberia. We have several exhibits relating to the Niemba ambush in the Congo when nine Irish soldiers were killed.

"That had a huge impact on the psyche of the nation. It was our first UN involvement, and then for so many people to be killed.

"In one sense, it reflects just how integral military history is to our heritage because it reveals aspects of our identity."

© The Irish Times

Table of Contents - Overall
Table of Contents – Feb 2005
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