A Belfast Telegraph report and a separate BBC report both point to the Organised Crime Task Force’s Annual Report and Threat Assessment [full pdf file here] which contains assessments of the current level of involvement in criminal activity by paramilitary groups.From Page 26 of the report [pdf file]
Paramilitary Involvement in Organised Crime
It has long been recognised that paramilitary groups and former paramilitary groups are often linked to organised crime, either through fundraising or through individuals who were previously members. The Independent Monitoring Commission’s (IMC) fifteenth report acknowledges that paramilitary involvement in organised crime has decreased in recent months however some individuals who are, or have been, members of paramilitary groups remain active in some forms of criminality.
Despite statements claiming the disbandment of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) there are still key members involved in criminal activity. Recent activity linked to the LVF, or those claiming to be linked to the LVF, includes drug dealing and counterfeit currency.
Members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) are thought to remain involved in drug dealing, extortion, loan sharking and the sale of counterfeit/contraband goods.
Some members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) leadership are thought to be trying to move the organisation away from criminality however members of the group are thought to remain active in drug dealing, extortion and counterfeiting.
The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) leadership have issued clear directions to members not to become involved in criminal activity and this type of activity by individual members appears to have continued to decline as a result. There are indications of the involvement of some individual members in smuggling, fuel laundering and tax evasion.
Dissident Republican groups remain active in criminal activity. Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) are believed to be responsible for a ‘tiger kidnap’ in 2006, thought to be largely for personal gain. Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) are believed to have been involved in a variety of crime including smuggling, fuel laundering and robbery. The Irish National Liberation
Army (INLA) are believed to be involved in serious organised criminal activity such as drug dealing, tobacco smuggling and extortion although it is unclear how much is for personal gain and how much is used to benefit the organisation. There have been some indications that this activity may be on the increase. Involvement by the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) in organised crime is thought to include extortion and robbery.
And later in the Report, Page 39, on extortion
Extortion, in the form of protection rackets, has traditionally been used by paramilitaries as a method of raising finance as well as a way of exercising control over the local community. This is not unique to Northern Ireland and examples of groups involved in this type of activity can be seen across the globe.
Reduced paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland in recent years has not, as might be expected, led to a significant decrease in extortion levels in Northern Ireland. Members and former members of paramilitary organisations are still using their paramilitary credentials to carry out extortion however it is not clear how much of the money raised actually goes to the organisation. It is likely that at least some of it is purely for personal gain.
The full scale and scope of extortion in Northern Ireland is not known due to the limited number of individuals willing to come forward and report the crime to police. On a positive note, a changing trend in recent years is the willingness of injured parties to follow through once the initial complaint has been made. In 1999, 2000 and 2001 there were a number of
cases reported to police which resulted in no further contact being reported by the victim or in the complaint being withdrawn. Additionally these years saw a significant number of reports where the injured party requested no further police action. This trend has seen a turn around with only one case in which the injured party withdrew their complaint since 2002 and none in which the injured party requested no further police action.
In reality when PSNI do become involved the success rate is excellent as noted earlier and recent cases going to court have resulted in sentences of 8 or 9 years. In 2006 PSNI mounted 20 operations against extortionists, producing 26 arrests. As a result 18 individuals were charged and a further 5 reported to the PPS.
The involvement of the police, by their own admission, does not always involve arresting anyone.. as I’ve noted previously.