Sunday Business Post

CAB targets IRA money

20 February 2005 By Barry O'Kelly and Pat Leahy

An IRA cigarette smuggling operation linked to the multi-million euro money-laundering scheme uncovered last week is to be probed by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), The Sunday Business Post has learned.

The Co Louth-based head of the IRA's finance department and a well-known IRA army council member based on the border are already under investigation.

Files relating to the former's fundraising operations have been uncovered.

The Sunday Business Post understands that CAB will use new laws passed last week - the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2005 - to investigate a number of cross-border cigarette smuggling networks, which came to light during the money-laundering inquiry.

Gardai will also use the legislation to examine the proceeds of a number of land deals, oil laundering and taxi companies.

One of the ultimate targets of the inquiries will be the well-known IRA man who is claimed to be running one of the biggest smuggling businesses on the border.

Detectives said members of the Provisional movement were involved in the smuggling of container loads of cigarettes, typically worth more than €1 million each, through Dublin Port.

Sources said an investigation into the cigarette smuggling was originally the primary focus of the probe into the money-laundering scheme.

Gardai said at least some of the cash stolen during the €37.8 million Northern Bank raid in December was included in the cash seized last week.

However, this has yet to be proven.

The discovery of the money-laundering operation has put further pressure on Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who yesterday held crisis talks with senior party figures in Dublin.

Meanwhile, the 57-year-old Cork-based moneylender Ted Cunningham, who was arrested by the investigation team last Thursday, was released without charge yesterday.

Cunningham is believed to have been the subject of a complaint to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and CAB last May by private investigator, Billy Flynn, who was acting on behalf of a Co Tipperary farmer.

The CAB probe into Cunningham and his firm, Chesterton Finance, was already under way at the time.

Sources described the money-laundering operation as a complex scheme in which some of the people inside and outside the company were unaware of each other's existence.

The investigation is believed to have looked at the activities of dissident republicans, mainstream republicans, border criminals and property deals involving a Bulgarian arms dealer.

Separately, government sources have claimed that the leadership of the republican movement, including the leaders of Sinn Féin, knew and approved of the money-laundering scheme exposed by gardai last week.

The sources maintained that the IRA and Sinn Féin's “unitary command structure'‘ was the authority under which millions of pounds in banknotes - believed to be from the Northern Bank raid - were sent for laundering in the Republic.

The surprise expressed by the Sinn Féin leadership about the spate of arrests was described by government sources as “disingenuous'‘.

“They are a unitary organisation with a unitary command structure.

“That is the view of the government,” said a senior government source.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

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