Assets of killer's associate probed

(Sharon O'Neill, Irish News)

The latest target of the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) is a close business associate of ousted UDA figure John White. The Irish News can reveal that the man at the centre of the agency's new probe – Albert Baxter – is also the father of a partner of White.

White, a convicted killer, was among a group of loyalists who fled the north early last year after an internal UDA feud that claimed several lives.

ARA investigators yesterday (Thursday) raided a number of premises in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, in a case referred to the agency by the PSNI.

It is the first time the ARA – the performance of which has come under scrutiny – has named individuals in an action.

It said it had been granted a series of orders in Belfast's High Court resulting in the freezing of assets in Northern Ireland, England and Spain valued "conservatively" in excess of £320,000.

In its civil action, the agency argued that three individuals – Albert Baxter, wife Jessica Baxter and son Paul Baxter – were in possession of the proceeds of crime including the illegal importation of fireworks from China, sale of counterfeit goods and smuggled cigarettes.

An interim receiver appointed on behalf of the High Court took control of:

* four companies, three of them registered in Northern Ireland: Kanash Ltd, which was at the centre of a controversy over the importation of dangerous fireworks in the 1990s; Global Christmas Ltd and Cedar Hill Trading Ltd. The fourth company, Global Fireworks Ltd, was registered in Leeds
* an apartment and a house in the Carrickfergus area
* three BMW cars
* a business in the Canary Islands.

NIO security minister Ian Pearson said: "The international dimension of this case sends out the clearest message to those who feed off the entire community in Northern Ireland that no matter where they attempt to hide their ill-gotten gains, the Assets Recovery Agency will find them."

Before being forced into exile, White – an ally of jailed loyalist Johnny Adair – had lived in a luxury house in Carrickfergus.

However, the ARA faced a barrage of demands to explain how the loyalist was allowed after he fled to sell the house, thought to be worth around £350,000.

The agency has refused to disclose whether White is under investigation.

In a separate case, it froze assets last month valued at around £300,000, believed to be the profits of robberies and burglaries of the elderly.

Now in operation for more than a year, the ARA seized more than £3 million worth of assets during its first 12 months, but critics claim that the figure represents only a small fraction of the estimated £250 million to £500 million amassed by criminals each year.

October 23, 2004

This article appeared first in the October 22, 2004 edition of the Irish News.

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