Friday 23 August 2019

Man who conspired to possess explosive substance, gun and ammunition via the 'Dark Net' jailed

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Ralph Riegel

A MAN was jailed for six years for conspiring to possess an explosive substance, a firearm and ammunition via the 'Dark Net' in an operation successfully foiled by the FBI and gardai.

Thomas Bates (51) of Abbey Street, Cahir, Co Tipperary was jailed as Judge Tom Teehan paid tribute to the skilled work of the Gardai in working with the FBI to foil the conspiracy.

"This was an operation that required a good deal of planning," Judge Teehan warned.

The judge imposed a seven year prison sentence, with one year suspended, as he warned that Bates was "a very important part" of the conspiracy while accepting he was not actually the "controlling mind" behind it.

Bates - who was born in the UK to an Irish father - was convicted earlier this year by a jury at Tipperary Circuit Criminal Court of three charges which involved conspiring to possess a Glock firearm, an explosive substance in the form of two hand grenades and ammunition.

The charges related to dates between October 24 and November 10 2017.

They were brought contrary to Section 71 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 and Section 27A of the Firearms Act, 1964.

During the two-week trial, the jury heard evidence from an FBI agent codenamed 'Peter' and a number of gardaí including members of the Special Detective Unit at Harcourt Square in Dublin.

The trial heard that the FBI had set up a fake 'shop front' on the 'Dark Net' to see who might attempt to illegally source weapons and explosives.

The Gardai were notified when the FBI realised that one such contact had originated from Ireland.

Judge Teehan was told that Gardai now accept that Bates was not the "controlling mind" in the operation.

His defence counsel, Kathleen Leader SC, said he was not the prime mover, was not a mean of wealth and was effectively a minor figure in what had happened.

However, Bates had a number of previous convictions in Ireland, the UK and Spain.

He was jailed in Spain for a drugs offence in 1994.

While born in Liverpool, he had moved back to Ireland to look after his elderly Tipperary-born father.

Following contacts between the FBI, Gardai and the unnamed 'Dark Net' contact, a controlled delivery was arranged to a specified address in Tipperary in 2017.

The Garda drugs unit supervised the controlled delivery because of their surveillance expertise.

It involved three packages containing the items specified by the unknown 'Dark Net' contact in Ireland.

These included a Glock pistol, two hand grenades and 30 rounds of ammunition.

The contact had indicated that, if the delivery went well, further deals might be arranged.

Agent Peter was paid for the items by the Irish 'Dark Net' contact via Bitcoin.

Det Superintendent Michael Gibbons said all of the items involved were safely decommissioned and posed no threat to the public during the controlled delivery process.

The ammunition involved was comprised of 30 dummy rounds.

The Glock and the hand grenades had been fully decommissioned and were not capable of being used.

"These are very, very serious items and are not permitted by law in Ireland," Garnett Orange SC, for the State, explained.

The items were delivered to an address in Abbey Street in Cahir and were signed for by Thomas Bates at 12.53pm on November 10 2017.

They were not addressed to him but to a 'Tim Bates'.

However, there was no such person as 'Tim Bates.'

Gardai later raided the premises and a fire in the back garden was detected.

Detectives found remnants of the packaging used in the delivery while the items sourced from the 'Dark Net' were recovered in a plastic bag at the gateway a short distance away.

In garda interviews after his arrest, Thomas Bates denied taking any delivery of such items or starting any fire in the back.

Exceptionally high security measures were found on a phone recovered from the scene.

Judge Teehan jailed Bates for six years but agreed to backdate the sentence to November 10 2017 when the defendant was first taken into custody.

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