Money laundering: a long term time bomb?

Conor Lally in today’s Irish Times has an interesting story on the IRA’s alleged money laundering operations (subs needed). Given the long lead times that are common for such complex investigations, it seems unlikely that any of this will tip the current political apple cart. But a long fuse has been lit here. If and when prosecutions arise, the effect could be politically explosive!

IRA extortion demands from companies of up to €400,000 per year are not uncommon. A single illegal gaming machine can net the IRA almost €40,000 per year. And some of the bigger IRA illicit diesel laundering operations have the capacity to produce 200,000 litres a week, resulting in a weekly loss to the Revenue of around €130,000. Around two thirds of the petrol stations in the North are believed to sell smuggled and laundered fuel. Some owners have been forced into such activity by the IRA. Other garages are owned by IRA sympathisers or are directly controlled by the organisation.

He quotes from Colin Cramphorn’s analysis from last week:

Two weeks ago, in the wake of the IRA’s statement saying its “armed campaign” was over and calling on members to “dump arms”, the last deputy chief constable of the RUC, Colin Crampton [sic], predicted the organisation would play a key mafia-style role in Ireland into the future. “A lot of men have invested their whole lives in illegal armed conflict, bomb-making and terror. They’re not about to settle for pipe and slippers now,” he said. “Neither is the IRA about to go away . . . This is the most sophisticated, politically strategic organisation I know. It has pensions to pay to loyal volunteers and operatives who have given long service . . . This is not the end of the IRA, it is the beginning of another era of it.”

He writes that the Gardaí have warned the Republic’s Minister of Justice that prosecutions may be difficult to effect from their ongoing investigations. Nevertheless, it seems that there have been some successes in finding links between individual senior members of the IRA and specific criminal activities:

IN RECENT WEEKS Cab has identified one former IRA army council member from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, as a rapidly emerging senior figure in the IRA’s cigarette and oil smuggling operations. This man was appointed to the army council 18 months ago, the Cab believes. He has several properties and, like many of his counterparts, is in the process of attempting to make the move into legitimate business. He owns a substantial piece of land on the outskirts of one southern Border town and gardaí believe he is planning to build around 40 houses there.

  • Oilbhear Chromaill

    I read Lally’s piece and I found it to be incredible. It relied on so called Garda and political sources, all of which were obviously grinding a political axe. This from a newspaper which only last week carried a feature on the necessity for objectivity and balance (re Mary Raftery’s piece on the Eddie Hobbs programme.
    How many times are these stories about money laundering going to be recycled – it’s significant that alongside this story was a feature by Gerry Moriarty on decommissioning, giving the most negative spin possible on what may or may not transpire in the coming days. Balance IT style?
    This business about cheap fags (I don’t smoke) and cheap fuel ( I do drive) – I live in west Belfast – supposedly an IRA controlled area and I have never got cheap fuel anywhere.
    This stuff is akin to the propoganda which was bandied about pre the abolition of apartheid in South Africa – ie the place would be ungovernable once the ‘white’ governing class was replaced.
    There may be some illegal activity going on – mostly taking advantage of the border and the different jurisdictions. Little wonder given the morally illegal nature of the border that people would take advantage of it and, more importantly, impoverish the governments who maintain the border. The cheapest and quickest way to stop this illegal activity is to get rid of the border….there’s no reason in the wide earthly world that the British government should be entitled to excise duty on fuel purchased by Irish people to drive on Irish roads.
    If the premise of Lally’s piece is that these ‘investigations’ or ‘probes’ are being stored up to attack republicans politically in the future, I suppose that type of politically motivated policing is to be expected. But I find it ridiculous that to date they have only managed to charge two people, both of whom are at liberty, with any thing in relation to the ‘discoveries’ in Cork last February and, subsequently, the ‘discovery’ of a pen gun – an executive toy? – in Phil Flynn’s office. I think this is a case of the Irish Times desperately trying to put a respectable sheen on the wildest fantasies of the Independent Group and being encouraged by government sources to do so in order to make sure that future attacks on republicans using the illegality pretext won’t be laughed out of the court of public opinion once they’re aired.
    I doubt whether this will succeed – the Irish people are not so gullible. The viewing figures for Rip Off Republic should be the most pressing thing on the Government agenda at present.
    I hope they didn’t pay over the odds for their plane rides to Colombia.

  • glensman

    I like Oilbhear have never once benefited from cheap fuel ‘smuggled’ by the IRA, I do however have friends who have bought cheap cigarettes from republicans… In any other European country this would not be illegal, either for the buyer or seller. Under EU trade agreements there is to be free trade amongst EEC countries on all goods. The UK however is trying to protect its exceptionally high tarriffs on goods such as cigarettes.
    The EU is presently attempting to make the UK drop this policy so that people visiting the continent can bring back as much as they can carry to sell to friends and relatives.
    So really the only law breakers are the UK government who continue to renege on past trade agreements in breech of common EU principles.

  • Betty Boo

    After “Rip Off Republic” the finger had to be pointed at someone else. And aren’t those republicans handy? And so illegal. Thanks God, for all the laws to make it legitimate to skin you alive.

  • Oilbbear Chromaill

    Around two thirds of the petrol stations in the North are believed to sell smuggled and laundered fuel. Some owners have been forced into such activity by the IRA. Other garages are owned by IRA sympathisers or are directly controlled by the organisation.

    This is indicative of the tripe in the IT article which Mick finds so interesting but which I feel is so predictable. What’s the source of these assertions? Why am I paying 98p a litre in west Belfast garages if this is true – shouldn’t I be getting it for half or less of that extortionate figure? Why have no garages that I know been closed down if they’re supposedly selling laundered fuel? Aren’t the authorities aware of this problem, it seems, so why aren’t they doing anything about it? Or is it just simply another scare story without foundation in anything except the feverish imaginings of an NIO/PSNI press machine and a hard up for a story to fill an acre of white space hack?

    This is the type of journalism which gives decent journalists a bad name – no sources, no established incontrovertible facts, just propoganda pure and simple.

    And people accuse the likes of Daily Ireland of propoganda – the DI is only in the half penny place compared to this vintage material.

  • slug

    Gallahers, which is a major emplpoyer in Ballymena, complains that its lorries, containing £m of cigarettes, have been hijacked and stolen as they go past border areas.

    It is an extra burden that the plant in Ballymena could do without.

  • lib2016

    One lorry was robbed at the border. Not a good thing, I agree, but hardly a crimewave!

  • Paul O

    Ah here we go! The subject of the next custom made ‘crisis in the peace process’ has been revealed. I was wondering what excuse not to share power the unionists would come up with now the IRA are gone, this will work!

  • barnshee

    ” Why am I paying 98p a litre in west Belfast garages if this is true “

    The economic naivety of some people

    Selling smuggled fuel at the “going rate” generates huge profits — why would anyone sell it for less than they can get?

    Selling much below the going rate also attracts the unwelcome attention of the taxation authorities who have the nasty habit of seizing fuel and money generated from it.

    Much better to smuggle and sell at retail (as any fule kno)

  • slug

    In addition to cigarette lorries crossing hte border warehouses of cigarettes are raided and their contents stolen – £m of cigarettes in value terms – making business conditions less favourable in NI.

  • Fanny

    It is nonsense to suggest that republicans don’t obtain every penny they have from legitimate sources.

  • glensman

    I cannot see why anyine would defend the tobacco industry! Although theft of cigarettes is obviously wrong, the true value of the cigarettes is only a fraction of the printed figures, people have to bear in mind the level of tax that is on a packet of cigarettes.
    I’m afraid those poor innocent souls in the tobacco industry have exaggerated their plight!

  • Alan

    Strange times indeed.

    So we ordinary folks in the North and the South don’t need doctors and nurses, or ambulance drivers, or roads or anything that tax pays for.

    Sure, we couldn’t be doing with better public transport, more renewable energy resources or anti-viral drugs for when Avian flu strikes next spring.

    No, in fact we should allow the bright and courageous black marketeers to salt away the money, sure nobody else wants it anyway.

    Come on folks, catch a grip.

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    Black marketeers salt away thousands, maybe millions. Developers and road builders and grocers fumbling in their greasy tills with the republic’s politicians in their pockets salt away billions. Get a grip yourself – the focus on alleged and unproven IRA illegality is to distract us from focusing on the real criminals.

  • middle-class taig

    complete white elephant – ignore it OC/Paul/Betty, treat it with the contempt it deserves

  • slug

    The livelihoods of Ballymena employees of Gallaher are worthy of concern. As indeed are those who invest in legitimate local business such as honest newsagents and the like.

  • slug

    Also as Alan says, all honest taxpayers should have a concern about smuggling to avoid tax.

  • Mick

    Fanny, You are bright and intelligent. So, why oh why do you so consistently slip into playing the man rather than the ball. Yellow card for egregious fouling!

    I don’t want to lose you from this forum. But if you keep it up a red will follow in fairly short order!

  • Alan

    *Get a grip yourself – the focus on alleged and unproven IRA illegality is to distract us from focusing on the real criminals.*

    Who mentioned the IRA? Do you know something we don’t?

    Should we discriminate against one group of blackguards just because they don’t keep publicly accessible accounts? They all deserve a few nights in the pens.

  • Dandyman

    I don’t understand the focus on IRA smuggling and money-laundering operations as if it’s worse than any other criminal carrying out such operations. Not that I’m defending anyone or anything, but should it not be said somewhere in this article that ‘oh, and by the way several other criminal gangs/organisations throughout this island are up to the exact same shenanigans, but because we can’t use them to attack the credibility of high-profile SF representatives for political/propaganda purposes, we’ve conveniently decided not to mention anything about them here.’

    By the way, WHY EXACTLY would a young (early 30s) newly-promoted Garda in the CAB unit be intimidated by the thought of interviewing a legitimised politician if required during the course of a police investigation? What’s that supposed to suggest? That if he has the audacity to bother or interrupt the important work of a Dáil deputy with trivial matters of law and order, he could be putting his career in jeopardy? Surely not!

  • D’Oracle

    The political timing on the (lit)fuse will be interesting to watch

  • Alan

    “I don’t understand the focus on IRA smuggling and money-laundering operations as if it’s worse than any other criminal carrying out such operations.”

    If we are finally viewing a panorama in which smuggling by the IRA is considered to be a given, I’d like to know how it advances the prospects of a peaceful transition to a new mode, how it bolsters the peace process and advances a united Ireland.

    It would also be valuable to know to where or to whom the lucre is being enveloped. The immediate suspicion is that the money is channeled to SF. If it isn’t, then it were better to say. Even better would be to remove the complication altogether.