deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi resumed his funding of republican terror groups shortly before he was forced into hiding by Nato bombing raids, it has been claimed.
A Libyan government courier flew into London earlier this year with $2m (€1.48m) in cash during a stopover while en route to the republic, a documentary to be screened on Monday will say.
The cash was said to be on its way to a businessman, believed to be a supporter of one of the dissident republican terror groups responsible for attacks against members of the PSNI.
According to Exposure, a new ITV documentary series, Gaddafi, who sent shiploads of weapons to the IRA in the Seventies, wants to exploit unrest in the North as a means of attacking Britain for supporting the overthrowing of his regime.
A source at the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, told the programme's producers that in June -- at a time when Gaddafi's forces were suffering regular Nato bombing raids, and half of his country was in the hands of rebels -- a Libyan courier flew into London in June carrying a heavy suitcase, inside of which were banknotes wrapped in plastic. It had been packed in Malta, the Mediterranean island where many of Gaddafi's deals were planned.
After arriving in London, the courier allegedly "went to ground" in a property owned by the Gaddafi family in Hans Crescent, Knightsbridge, located behind the Harrods department store.
An MI6 official told the programme: "Security forces fear that the dissidents are growing and gaining support -- and that new cash from Gaddafi would help them restock with more weapons."
The first Libyan arms shipments to the IRA occurred around 1972, following visits by Joe Cahill, the provisional's former Chief of Staff.
The supplies included hundreds of rocket-propelled grenades, automatic rifles, sniper rifles, explosives and heavy machine guns.
Several arms shipments were seized by the Irish Navy. They included the Claudia, stopped off Helvick Head, Waterford, with five tonnes of weapons on board.
The MV Eksund was seized by the French Navy near the Bay of Biscay with 120 tonnes of weapons in its hold, including rocket launchers, Semtex explosives and nearly a million rounds of ammunition.
Although contact between Irish republicans and the Libyan government was broken off in 1976, it was re-established after the US Air Force bombed Tripoli in 1986. Estimates suggest that enough weaponry was sent to the IRA to equip 1,500 terrorists.
The programme has also obtained a copy of a video purporting to show a group of dissident republicans training with AK47 automatic rifles and pistols in the Irish countryside. Dr John Horgan, a terrorist expert who has spent the last two years studying dissident republicans, told the programme that he believed the groups were recruiting young people as well as drawing on the experience of IRA veterans.
He says that his research shows that many dissidents used to belong to the IRA, and adds: "Dissidents look for electricians, they look for people with military experience, they look for people with some experience for weaponry, for example. They certainly have gone a long way, the violent groups, in reaching out to those with connections in the organised crime world to try to procure sophisticated weaponry."
During his decades in power, Gaddafi funded terrorist groups across the world, including the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines, and the Japanese Red Army.
'Exposure' will be screened on ITV1 tomorrow at 10.30pm