At the time of the Northern Bank robbery, we re-iterated over and over that this story will continue to muddy the political waters for years to come. Although the IRA has denied being involved the tide of evidence appears to moving in the opposite direction. As Pete noted yesterday, the two governments yesterday (including Justice Minister McDowell) were at pains to stress that no criminal activities were now being organised centrally by the IRA. But Conor Lally reports this morning (subs needed) that “the IRA intended to use the proceeds of the £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery to buy a £15 million apartment block in Bulgaria and a quarry in the midlands for between €3 million and €4 million”.
The investigation into the Cork laundering operation has now resulted in the Criminal Assets Bureau becoming involved in two of its biggest investigations.
One of these involves five key individuals who are believed to be the main players in a business empire in Leinster that was to be centrally involved in laundering the Northern Bank money. These targets, through pubs and hotels, have also played key roles in the financing of the IRA’s terrorist campaign for almost 20 years.
They raised seed funding through Revenue offences in Britain in the 1980s which was transferred to Ireland via the Isle of Man. It was then used by the IRA to buy pubs in the Republic.
The investigation into these men is described as “massive” by Garda sources. Gardaí have visited Britain, the Isle of Man and Bulgaria trawling through financial records in an effort to piece together the IRA money trail.
One of the five was central to devising the pub investment and money-laundering scheme for the IRA 15 to 20 years ago and is believed to have been the organisation “chief financial strategist”. Another has run some of the IRA’s pubs in Dublin. All five have built considerable property-based personal wealth. It believes that some of these men were leaving IRA-owned pubs weekly with bags of cash takings.