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.