Tuesday 18 June 2019

Man who sent 'guns to Ireland' jailed for handling €100k of stolen jewellery

Declan Brennan and Sonya McLean 

A Belfast man who was previously imprisoned in Florida for sending guns to Ireland has been jailed for handling almost €100,000 worth of stolen jewellery.

Conor Claxton (41) was one of four men convicted of handling the stolen jewellery days after it had been stolen in an armed raid on a Belfast jewellers.

Claxton of Kilmore Close, Belfast pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dishonestly receiving €99,690 worth of stolen jewellery at Grattan Crescent, Inchicore on July 11, 2011.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring sentenced Claxton to three and half years with the last 18 months suspended. A group of supporters from Belfast clapped when he was sentenced.

Detective Garda Michael Doherty told Anne Rowland BL, prosecuting, that a few days before they were arrested two men robbed a jewellers in Belfast at knifepoint.

Claxton later travelled from Belfast to Dublin and was trailed by gardai who had mounted a surveillance operation following a tip off that there would be an attempt to sell stolen jewellery in the Dublin area.

Claxton and Liam O’Neill (58) of Cross Guns Quay, Phibsboro, Dublin were seen trying to sell the items to a jeweller in Palmerstown but the jeweller decided not to buy them.

The prospective buyer returned the jewellery to the men after meeting them outside the Marble Arch pub.

Gardai from the Organised Crime Unit moved in and stopped the car minutes later in Inchicore. They found the jewellery and arrested the four men in the car.

Claxton’s previous convictions are all for road traffic offences in Northern Ireland apart from an offence in June 2000 when he was convicted of purchasing firearms and posting them to Ireland.

The father of five was jailed for four years and eight months. He was released in September 2003 and deported to Ireland.

Pieter LeVert BL, defending, said Claxton was the owner of two bars in Belfast and got into financial difficulties. He then borrowed money from "people he should not have" and later received significant threats.

The threats were notified to him by the PSNI in Belfast, Mr LeVert said.

Counsel said Claxton is a full time carer for his parents and works with a number of charities including setting up a monastery in Uganda.

At a previous court sitting, also in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, co-accused Francis Taggart (22) of Albert Street, Belfast, pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen gold pocket watch, while O’Neill and Gavin Hughes (29) of Springfield Park, Belfast, both pleaded guilty to handling stolen jewellery on the same occasion.

Judge Martin Nolan sentenced O’Neill and Hughes to two years in prison. He sentenced Taggart to two and half years which he suspended in full on strict conditions.

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