Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Stolen Vermeer, Whitey Bulger, If not Both, Vermeer Please !! Updated below !!

Provo gangs off the hook as elite unit is shut down


IRA criminals in south Armagh knew that the North's Assets Recovery Agency was to be abolished, days before it was officially announced, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The agency had been set up - after the success of CAB in the south - to trace the millions laundered by crime gangs and paramilitaries. It has specifically tageted cross-border smuggling and illegal diesel washing by IRA members.

This has led to the belief that the surprise move was part of a deal between the British government and Sinn Fein, to secure Sinn Fein/IRA support for policing in the North. When the agency is abolished, it will make it more difficult, if not impossible, to investigate the financial affairs of senior IRA figures, like Thomas 'Slab' Murphy.

The support of Murphy, who was under active investigation, and of other terrorists-turned-criminals, is seen as essential in getting Sinn Fein/IRA figures in south Armagh to sign up to policing.

It is now likely that Murphy will be saved from further investigation.

The official announcement of the abolition of the agency came a day after Prime Minister Blair issued a statement on the role of the intelligence service, MI5, in the North. Sinn Fein hailed the statement as a "major victory".

The announcement that the Assets Recovery Agency was to be "merged" with the Serious Organised Crime Agency in London was a surprise to other political parties.

However, according to well placed sources in south Armagh, news of the imminent closure, announced on Thursday, spread throughout the area last weekend.

Yesterday, the Fine Gael Senator Brian Hayes called on the Government to say if the closure was part of a "desperate deal" to get Sinn Fein to recognise the PSNI and enter government with the DUP.

He said: "I cannot understand why both governments seem to be playing such a high-wire strategy with the Provisionals. For the British government in particular, this news points to wanting to do a deal at any cost. It sends out wrong signals and is a sign of weakness.

"Any dilution of the Assets Recovery Agency or any merger with a UK agency would not only be damaging to the fight against organised crime in Northern Ireland, it would be damaging to the fight against organised crime on the island of Ireland. We need closer co-operation between the ARA and CAB. Both governments are trying to do this desperate deal which will compromise our security and damage efforts to take on organised crime."

The ARA had been hugely successful. It hit border smugglers, including leading republicans, and loyalist drug dealers, seizing houses, pubs, businesses and other assets linked to crime.

Last autumn, the agency seized over €2m worth of houses in Manchester, which it said were bought from the proceeds of fuel smuggling.

The ARA in the North has accounted for almost half the entire proceeds seized in the UK, since it was set up two years ago.

Its chief Alan McQuillan is hated by the Sinn Fein/IRA. A former senior officer in the RUC's Special Branch, he was previously involved in many high-profile cases against the IRA.

In an extraordinary week, Sinn Fein indicated it was set to recognise the PSNI - and apparently accept MI5 holding the role of intelligence gathering in the North - policies which are to be ratified at a special ard fheis at the end of this month.

This, both governments hope, will be a prelude to getting the DUP to share power with their former enemies. The deal was announced on the front page of Sinn Fein's weekly paper, An Phoblacht, under the headline: Major victor on issue of MI5.

Officially, the British government position on the Assets Recovery Agency is that it is not being shut but merged with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

The North's other political parties were informed of the "merger" in a letter from Northern Secretary Peter Hain on Thursday. He said the ARA's 50 staff in Belfast will transfer to SOCA, which is based in London, but that this would not cause a "reduction of ARA's current levels of activity".

The move was criticised by the North's largest business organisation, the Federation of Small Businesses, which pointed out that small businesses in the North face the highest extortion and racketeering levels in the UK, most of it coming from paramilitaries. The DUP described it as a "retrograde step".

Downing Street accused of pandering to Sinn Fein

Timing of Assets Recovery Agency abolition 'very suspicious', claim Tories

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor Sunday January 14, 2007

Downing Street last night rejected claims that the announcement of the abolition of the Assets Recovery Agency was timed to win republican support for policing in Northern Ireland.

Republicans in South Armagh - one of the regions on which the ARA focused in its efforts to recover the proceeds of organised crime - say they were made aware that the agency was being dissolved before the official announcement was made last week.

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary David Lidington described the timing of the ARA's dissolution as 'very suspicious'. It came about just days before the Sinn Fein leadership met in Dublin to plan a historic conference on policing.

The agency is hated by republicans and loyalists, especially in South Armagh where it is investigating the assets of the former IRA chief of staff and smuggler Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, who is a multimillionaire.

Yesterday, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams won support from his party's ruling body for a special Ard Fheis, or conference, on 28 January, where he will put forward a motion aimed at overturning decades of republican opposition to policing. Sinn Fein's support for the police and justice system in Northern Ireland would help clear the way for Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists to share power with the republicans.

Speaking at the Great Southern Hotel at Dublin Airport yesterday, Adams said: 'We still need to have an accountable police service and we still need to get the power-sharing institutions in place. We cannot allow others to dictate the pace.'

Last night Downing Street welcomed the move and said the Ard Fheis decision would be crucial. Late last night, the wording of the policing motion had not been made public.

A spokesman for Number 10 denied that the agency's disbandment had been synchronised with the Prime Minister's assurances in Parliament that MI5 would operate entirely separately from the Police Service of Northern Ireland and PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde's statement that his officers would no longer use plastic bullets.

However, normally reliable republican sources said news of the ARA's dissolution had been leaked to South Armagh activists days before the official statement. 'Everyone was going around the border area saying "Alan McQuillan [the head of the ARA in Northern Ireland] is going. The ARA is gone." It's no coincidence that all of the delegates to the Ard Fheis are now mandated to support the leadership on the policing issue,' one said.

Lidington said people were right to be suspicious: 'I doubt very much that the ARA was abolished for political reasons. I am not saying that. But what I think is very suspicious is the timing of this all. It came in the same week the government gave Gerry Adams a fig leaf about MI5's presence in Northern Ireland and the Chief Constable's announcement on plastic bullets not being used.'

He added that he would be tabling a parliamentary question to Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain asking him to confirm that there will be 'no let-up in the fight against ordinary crime' once the ARA is absorbed into the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.

Window Dressing For Public Consumption

Gardaí seize €2m in contraband cigarettes, Or Were They Given Them, Token Gesture ??
14/01/2007 - 10:06:28
Breaking News Ireland:

Contraband cigarettes with a value of €2m have been seized by Revenue officials in Co Louth.

The haul was made outside Dundalk last night as part of an ongoing operation in the area.

Gardaí believe the six million cigarettes seized were destined for sale in the North.

No arrests have been made, but investigations are continuing.

Art Hostage comments:

Nearly there !!

Update !!

€2m stolen in latest 'tiger' kidnapping
15/01/2007 - 13:00:41

A husband and wife today became the latest victims of a 'tiger' kidnapping in which an armed gang got away with almost €2m.

The man was confronted at his home in the Hillcrest area of Lucan, west Dublin, last night where he was taken hostage, gardaí said.

At the same time, other members of the gang abducted his wife, drove her away and held her overnight at an unknown location.

The man was then forced to go to work for a security company as normal this morning and ordered to drive a van, packed with cash, to Carlow town where a handover was made shortly before 10am.

His wife was found at 11.30am in the Rathcoole area of west Co Dublin.

The couple were not harmed during the kidnap, but it is understood they were left severely shaken by their ordeal.

Gardaí are looking for a Green Toyota car, registration number 02-D-53074, in connection with the incident. Detectives are also examining three scenes in Carlow town, Rathcoole and Lucan.

It is the third time this year 'tiger' kidnapping gangs have struck. In the first incident, on January 7, three armed men took a security firm worker and two others hostage in Swords, north Co Dublin, before demanding cash be handed over from the company.

The attempted robbery was foiled after two of the hostages managed to escape from a derelict house in the Oldtown area of the town and alert gardaí.

In the second incident, two men targeted a young couple in the quiet village of Muff, Co Donegal.

During the cross-border robbery, the man was held at the home while his 28-year-old partner was forced to hand over cash from McDonalds fast food outlet in Derry's Waterside.

The robberies are known as 'tiger' kidnappings because the raiders stalk their prey to study their movements before striking.

The gangs require a detailed knowledge of bank or security staff including daily journeys, job responsibilities and their families - which may come with inside help from a current or former employee.

The family or friends of a member of staff is often held hostage to force the employee to participate in the robbery.

The worker is forced to enter his workplace as normal and collect cash knowing that one false move could mean loved ones could be harmed.

Art Hostage comments:

If you pull the tail of the Celtic Tiger, don't be surprised if he turns round and bites your hand off.

we have a return of the status quo.

2 million Euros worth of cigarettes seized yesterday, 2 million Euros cash stolen in today's Tiger kidnapping.

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