Monday 26 September 2016

North-south task force is called on to target Border 'millionaires'

Published 14/01/2016 | 02:30

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A county council has called on the new joint task force being set up to tackle paramilitary and organised crime along the Border to focus on the financial background of those living in "mansions" in the region.

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Plans are being finalised to launch the north-south drive to eliminate the involvement of paramilitary groups in racketeering. The aim is to organise simultaneous action in the two jurisdictions to stamp out the multi-million euro trade in tobacco smuggling, fuel laundering and fraud.

An implementation group established to set down the guidelines for the joint agency task force, which will be funded by the Dublin and Belfast governments, is to hold its first meeting later this month.

The Irish-British parliamentary assembly committee, which created the concept of a cross-border force last February, will push for speedy action when it reviews developments in Belfast early next month.

Committee chairman and government chief whip in the Seanad, Paul Coghlan, and Fianna Fáil foreign affairs chairman, Brendan Smith, were given further evidence of the impact of the rackets on the local economy from members of Cavan County Council.

The authority said the task force should investigate the "Border millionaires", who had an elevated lifestyle without any visible means of support.

A senior official told the Irish Independent last night: "These lucrative illegal activities cannot be tolerated any longer, and the only way forward is through a joint task force.

"There are 34 border crossings in the Dundalk garda district alone, and it is impossible to mount a proper policing operation unless you have coordinated action involving all agencies."

The committee is calling for a greater police presence in republican-dominated areas such as Crossmaglen in south Armagh, where officers are confined mainly to their fortress-type station and their movements are limited compared with the gardai.

Intelligence reports prepared for the committee showed the rackets were controlled by a number of extended families with links to the Provisional republican movement as well as dissident republicans and associated criminal gangs.

The reports suggested a "small hard-core group" comprising renegade republicans diverted their profits from the illegal cigarette trade in Ireland towards terrorism.

A number of convicted subversives are also behind some of the cigarette trade and have links to dissident groups.

Irish Independent

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