Friday 20 October 2017

Suspicious death of IRA gun runner dominates 'Whitey' Bulger trial

Former mob boss and fugitive James
Former mob boss and fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger

Richard Valdmanis

The suspicious death of a fisherman who helped the Boston mob smuggle guns to the Irish Republican Army in the 1980s was the focus of prosecutors trying mobster James "Whitey" Bulger on charges that he committed or ordered 19 murders.

Jurors in the Bulger trial, which has riveted Boston for weeks, got a detailed description of how Bulger's "Winter Hill" gang used fishing boats and freighters in the 1980s to smuggle drugs into the United States and ship guns to the IRA for its guerrilla campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland.

 

Prosecutors focused on events related to the murder of fisherman John McIntyre, who disappeared in 1984 after he began cooperating with federal authorities investigating Bulger's gang, which ruled the Boston underworld by fear in the 1970s and '80s.

 

McIntyre, who had crewed several smuggling vessels, vanished after helping investigators intercept 36 tons of marijuana stashed deep in a gravel cargo on a freighter in the Boston Harbor, Former U.S. Customs officer Donald DeFago testified.

 

McIntyre's body was not found until 2000.

 

"He had instructions to call us ... every day and when he didn't call we got suspicious and started to go out and look for him," DeFago said.

 

Bulger associates Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi and Kevin Weeks testified at previous hearings that Bulger shot the man in the head. Flemmi is expected to testify this week against Bulger, 83, who faces life in prison if convicted on charges related to 19 murders.

 

DeFago said McIntyre had named Bulger associate Patrick Nee as an organizer of drugs and weapons shipments to and from the Boston area, including seven tons of guns and weapons bound for the IRA that Irish authorities intercepted in 1984.

 

Those weapons and ammunition had left Massachusetts on a Gloucester swordfishing boat named the Valhalla. At the time, Irish authorities said it was the largest known weapons shipment headed to the IRA.

 

Bulger has pleaded not guilty to all charges but through his lawyer has admitted being an extortionist, drug dealer, loan shark and "organized criminal."

 

Bulger rose from his youth in a housing project to become the most feared criminal in Boston. After a 1994 tip from a corrupt FBI agent that arrest was imminent, Bulger fled. He evaded arrest for 16 years before authorities caught him in California in June 2011.

 

Bulger and many members of his gang were of Irish descent. He ran his gang while avoiding arrest for years by cooperating with corrupt FBI agents who shared his Irish ancestry and South Boston upbringing. They turned a blind eye to Bulger's crimes while they focused on taking down the Italian Mafia.

 

Nee, who was jailed after the arms and drugs seizures, has admitted bringing McIntyre to a meeting with Bulger, Flemmi and Weeks shortly afterward. He said he left that meeting and returned to find McIntyre dead.

 

Bulger's story inspired the 2006 Academy Award-winning film "The Departed," in which Jack Nicholson played a character loosely based on Bulger.

Reuters

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