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Travellers held in Bruges face gangster probe

THREE alleged Irish gangsters have been charged in Bruges with offences related to organised crime.

The three men -- including one Dubliner -- are said by Belgian prosecutors to be part of a criminal gang and they are being held at a high security prison in the Belgian city.

The medieval city of Bruges was the setting of the classic 2008 gangster film starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

In Bruges is a black comedy that tells the story of two Irish hitmen hiding out in the city.

While there is nothing to suggest the three-man Irish gang in custody are anything like the characters in the movie, it is understood that Belgian prosecutors believe they have a strong case against the men.

The three arrested men, who are members of the Traveller community, have each been charged with four offences -- participation in a crime organisation, swindling, attempted swindling and a breach of trust.

They were arrested in Belgium after crossing the border during a high-speed police chase through Holland.

It is understood that the Dutch authorities also want to prosecute the men.

Dubliner Patrick Stokes (38) was one of those arrested and is being held in Bruges prison.

Another of the men is Patrick 'The Businessman' McGinley (42) who is from Edgeworthstown in Co Longford.


Some of McGinley's associates have been involved in a bitter Traveller feud in the midlands which has resulted in a number of shootings and other violent incidents

The identity of the third suspect has not been disclosed.

The Herald has learned that the offences relate to alleged tarmacadam and plant machinery scams which left the alleged victims out-of-pocket to the tune of thousands of euro.

A spokesperson for the regional Belgian prosecution service told the Herald: "Their current arrest is the result of an investigation which began in Belgium although some of the offences may have taken place in Holland as well.

"There might be other offences but they have been arrested for acts committed in Belgium so they will be prosecuted in Belgium for this.

"The three men are currently being held in Bruges.

"We expect that they will remain there for a few weeks, until the enquiry is completed and the tribunal will then decide whether to release them or not, to keep or change their provisional charge."

One of the men has challenged his arrest and will appear in court in Ghent today.