Friday 24 November 2017

Gardai probe Irish businesswoman in Islamist weapons plot

Investigation centres on multimillion-dollar deal

Destruction: Damage inside the ‘Nadi al-Sharq’, an event venue in Damascus, following rocket attacks last week by Islam Army insurgents in Syria
Destruction: Damage inside the ‘Nadi al-Sharq’, an event venue in Damascus, following rocket attacks last week by Islam Army insurgents in Syria
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

An Irish businesswoman is at the centre of a Garda investigation into an alleged international plot to supply military equipment and weapons to Islamic terrorists.

The investigation centres on claims that the woman represents an Irish-based Islamist who is suspected of funding jihadi groups waging war in the Middle East.

The Sunday Independent understands it has been alleged the man was prepared to invest vast sums of money into secret financial schemes based in Russia.

It is claimed money from across three continents is being used to invest in the highly lucrative financial programmes which can net investors huge returns. According to the claims being investigated by the Garda Counter-Terrorism Unit, a multimillion-dollar weapons deal was being facilitated by the Irish businesswoman.

Former KGB operatives based in Russia are said to be the source of the weapons and the deal was organised through businessmen based in the Middle East.

The weapons left a port in Russia, in a Turkish-registered ship, and it is claimed they were destined for extremists fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Gardai first received details of the alleged plot last year, but have so far not established the veracity of the claims.

However, the Sunday Independent understands the allegations are being investigated at a "high level" within the force.

"The information being put forward is detailed but there is not much to back it up," a senior source told the Sunday Independent.

"They are trying to verify it and they are definitely not ruling it out, but they have serious doubts."

The claims, if true, put Ireland centre-stage in the war against terrorism and will increase fears of the country being used as a hub for radicalised fundamentalists.

An estimated 30 Islamists have travelled from Ireland to fight in conflict zones in the Middle East.

The percentage of Jihad fighters per capita leaving Ireland is higher than the UK and has sparked a Government clampdown on the rise of extremism.

Speaking to Sky News yesterday, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: "We've seen what's happened in France recently and in Belgium and in other European countries.

"There are thousands of young men and some women who are going to become foreign fighters and obviously there's a huge risk when they return of being radicalised and posing a danger."

The information currently being examined by gardai suggests Ireland is not only being used to recruit jihadi fighters but also to raise funding for the savage war.

The well-connected Irish businesswoman being investigated by gardai is said to have links to the Middle East, Asia and Russia through her work.

It is alleged one of her clients is an Irish Muslim who has "significant amounts of money" and associates linked to the so-called Islamic State.

On his behalf, the woman made contact with individuals based in Russia who run complex 'invitation only' financial programmes which only permit multimillion dollar investments.

It is understood the Irish-based Muslim was prepared to invest more than €500m in one of these schemes in the hope he would make huge returns for his benefactors.

The money was due to come from an account in Asia and it is also claimed he had access to funds in South America.

If an investment had gone ahead the Irish businesswoman was set to receive a substantial pay-off.

However, the investment did not transpire because of the Irish Muslim's reluctance to engage with the Russians running the financial programmes.

Gardai were told the Irish businesswoman also facilitated meetings between Russian weapons traders and Middle Eastern businessmen.

Meetings are believed to have taken place in Western Europe and the United Arab Emirates, which were attended by senior figures from the Arab business world.

At one of these meetings, it is claimed a multimillion dollar weapons deal was organised between Russian and Middle Eastern businessmen.

Russian-made surface to air missiles launchers, assault rifles, grenade launchers and anti-personnel land mines are alleged to have been among the artillery involved in the deal.

The Irish-based Muslim did not attend the meetings, but it is claimed he was fully aware of the transaction.

The Irish businesswoman was also not involved in the weapons discussions but it is alleged she knew the deal was happening.

It is claimed the weapons deal went ahead last November, when a cargo ship sailed from a port in Russia to Turkey.

According to information given to gardai the weapons were destined for Jihadi fighters based in Syria and Iraq.

Sunday Independent

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