**I think the more time passes without a deal being worked out between the DUP and Sinn Féin, the more accusations will be made against republicans as an excuse.

Paramilitaries accused of €3m cigarette raid
06/10/2004 - 15:31:47

Republican paramilitaries carried out a £2m (€2.9m) cigarette heist in Belfast, police said today.

Although Chief Constable Hugh Orde refused to blame the IRA for the robbery, which saw a family held hostage, he confirmed a report would be sent to the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) terrorist ceasefire watchdog.

Unionists immediately claimed the Provisionals were behind the weekend raid on a warehouse owned by tobacco giant Gallagher, and estimated the paramilitary organisation had raked in up to £15m (€21.7m) in similar crimes over the last year.

The IMC’s next report will be critical in assessing whether the IRA has abandoned violence and restored enough confidence for devolution to return to Northern Ireland.

But a senior Democratic Unionist warned that involvement in major thefts could also stop them going back into a power sharing administration with Sinn Féin.

Ian Paisley Junior said: “Even if we have an end to decommissioning, as they claim there may be, we could not allow ourselves to be associated with any organisation that is making money from ill-gotten gains.”

Mr Orde confirmed Republicans are heavily suspected of the latest robbery at a meeting of the Northern Ireland Policing Board in Belfast.

It is understood a gang held a family from the Ardoyne district of the city captive while a member of staff was forced to open up the warehouse on an industrial estate less than five miles away.

Sam Kinkaid, the assistant chief constable in charge of crime operations, told the board it was a well organised raid linked to paramilitaries with a republican background.

He added: “All paramilitary groups in the last five to six months have been involved in serious robberies in Northern Ireland. That’s on both sides of the community.”

These operations included a £500,000 (€723,800) theft from an Ulster Bank in Strabane, Co Tyrone, during the summer when two families were held hostage.

That theft has been attributed to the splinter Irish National Liberation Army, but Mr Paisley insisted the provisionals were by far the most heavily involved.

“I estimate that between £10m (€14.5m) and £15m (€21.7m) has been taken in the last year,” he claimed.

“The vast majority is, I believe, in the hands of the Provisional IRA.

“Northern Ireland is facing a major criminal gang wave and this money is finding its way back into the coffers of the IRA.

“In the Gallaghers’ case, the family was held hostage and the location where they were held means that it could not have been carried out without being sanctioned by the provisionals."

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?