FORMER IRA chief of staff Sean Garland, who has been linked to a plot to circulate counterfeit dollars produced by North Korea, could be prosecuted here after his extradition to the US was refused.
Mr Garland (77), who is also a former president of the Workers Party, is accused of conspiring to circulate thousands of high quality 'supernotes' in a bid to undermine the US currency.
The bizarre case reads like a James Bond script and took six years to reach court after Mr Garland was arrested in Belfast in 2005.
Last December, the High Court here refused an application for his extradition to the US. Yesterday, however, it emerged that Mr Justice John Edwards has referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to see whether Mr Garland might face charges in Ireland.
Judge Edwards said that he had refused the extradition request because the offence, under Irish law, was regarded as having been committed in Ireland.
According to indictment papers filed before a grand jury in the US and revealed in 2005, Mr Garland conspired with six other suspects to circulate millions of fake dollars.
It is contended that these counterfeits were traced by the US secret service to a government laboratory and printing press in North Korea. Mr Garland's involvement became known when fake bills began to turn up in Dublin in the 1990s. Irish banks subsequently refused to exchange $100 notes.
It is also claimed that in the late 1990s he travelled to Moscow to smuggle the currency to Dublin as part of an overall plot to distribute the cash throughout Europe.
Mr Garland remained under surveillance there and was observed with his wife being collected by a Sedan with diplomatic license plates registered to the North Korean embassy, which the couple then visited for some two hours.
After being arrested in Belfast in 2005, Mr Garland fled to the "protection" of the Republic but the US did not seek his extradition until 2008.
Judge Edwards's ruling yesterday noted that because the allegations of conspiracy related to Irish soil, the application would not be granted.
It was also announced that Mr Garland's house, passport and cash bail of €75,000 would be released to him.