“There has been an investigation. We know what you’ve been up to.”

This story looks like one to watch closely.. Three men have gone on trial in London’s Southwark Crown Court charged with “conspiring together and with others to make, with a view to gain for themselves or another, unwarranted demands for payment of monies in the sum of £150,000 with menaces”. But it’s the detail that makes the case particularly interesting. Not just the background of two of those accused, that’s below the fold, but for the nature of the alleged extortion and the money involved.

Mark Heyward, prosecuting, told the court that the two alleged victims raised £6m using the name of the IRA and the defendants felt these men “would have to contribute in the sums demanded or face the consequences”. [added emphasis]

Adds In the comments zone, “The West” points out that one of those charged would appear to be Máirtín’s “mate, Ronnie McCartney, who [Máirtín] used to visit when [McCartney] was in Gartree Prison”.. Update Interesting to note that, as El Blogador mentioned at the time, Ronnie McCartney appeared on the BBC NI’s “Facing the Truth”. Mick noted his initial response to that 3-part series here.
Also from the BBC report

A man claiming to be from the IRA and using the name P O’Neill allegedly told one of the businessmen: “There has been an investigation. We know what you’ve been up to.

“You are going to receive a letter in the next couple of days and you are to follow its instructions.”

Mr Heyward said the call came from Mr McCartney’s mobile phone and was “akin to downright extortion, the words pregnant with the threat of violence”.

Later, in a second call, the barrister said the caller warned: “You better make delivery.”

The jury was told that the second alleged victim was also called at home by a man with a Northern Ireland accent, telling him: “Silly boy, silly boy.”

On the same day day, a man fitting Mr McCartney’s description visited the man at his business, Mr Heyward said.

The court was told that Mr McCartney “accepted” he had known one of the alleged victims for more than 10 years, but “denied any involvement in sending any blackmail letter or writing it”.

Mr Mullen, meanwhile, also admitted knowing one of the businessmen and writing one of the letters, which included the words “their patience was limited”.

He insisted he was simply “asking for a donation”.

“He stated he was just a middle man, an honest broker,” said Mr Heyward.

And the background of two of those accused..

Mr McCartney, the barrister said, was convicted at Winchester Crown Court in 1976 of “three counts of attempted murder of three different policemen”.

He said he was also found guilty of “a single count of conspiracy to cause explosions, possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and using a firearm with intent to resist arrest… all of which related, says the prosecution, to his activities as a part of his membership of the IRA”.

Mr Mullen, meanwhile, was convicted of “significant terrorist offences and was sentenced at the Old Bailey to 30 years’ imprisonment in June 1990 for conspiracy to cause explosions”.

“He was alleged in that trial to have acted as quartermaster for an IRA active service unit in London in 1988,” he said.

“However, and you will also hear evidence of this, in 1999 the Court of Appeal Criminal Division… quashed his conviction on the principal ground that the process used to return him to the United Kingdom from Zimbabwe where he had gone after the events that had led to his arrest, was itself unlawful.”

Adds The BBC report now includes these quotes from one of the letters

The barrister also read out a letter allegedly sent to the businessmen which said: “When you think of the volunteers who are in early graves as a result of [the Republican] struggle and the volunteers and families who have endured years of imprisonment you will understand our justifiable anger that the two of you have exploited this situation for your own personal gain.”

The letter added: “If you involve the police or anyone else then Fort Knox will not be safe for either you or your extended family.

“We want to resolve this issue, but if you fail to comply then appropriate action will be taken.”

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  • Dec

    Oddly you appear to have missed out the most damning peice of evidence:

    Mr Heyward also said that letters to the alleged victims – who cannot be named for legal reasons – bore the Irish Gaelic for the IRA – Oglaigh na h-Eireann – and were signed with the organisation’s nom de guerre “P O’Neill”.

    Well, it must have been the Ra then.

    Next!

  • Rory Carr

    I must say that all this is news to me and my immediate reaction was, “Oh dear!”.

    Any further comment would be inappropriate until after the trial concludes and any comment of mine thereafter without having personal knowledge of what transpired probably of little value. Which is not to say that I might not have something to say at that time.

  • frustrated democrat

    Freelancers perhaps trying to boost their income?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    [b]Dec[/b]
    “[i]Oddly you appear to have missed out the most damning peice of evidence:”[/i]

    ‘[u]Mr Heyward also said that letters to the alleged victims – who cannot be named for legal reasons – bore the Irish Gaelic for the IRA – Oglaigh na h-Eireann – and were signed with the organisation’s nom de guerre “P O’Neill”.[/u]’

    “[i]Well, it must have been the Ra then.

    Next!”[/i]

    Don’t dismiss it so quick Dec. The information provided on the letter may give us a clue to the identity of the victims. It may be that the victims were considered to be good Irish Republicans or Nationalists and well respected within their communities and in such cases it may become necessary to provide additional information for them to co-operate?

  • Rory Carr

    “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Ludwig Wittgenstein

    To whose wise words anyone who chooses to comment on the above report would be wise to heed, not merely in order to avoid being exposed as a complete twat but also in order to avoid any serious breach of law.

  • The West

    If Ronnie needed some money, he could have just asked his good friend Mairtin O’Millionaire for a loan…

    http://apublishersblog.blogspot.com/2007/01/wolverhampton-wanderings.html

  • Jimmy Sands

    “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Ludwig Wittgenstein

    Not a blogger then

  • cynic

    Ah good old Martin advocating democracy for the people of West Belfast by eulogising stealing their votes. That will show the Brits!

  • Rory Carr

    Read your own comment above with care, Jimmy Sands, and decide for yourself. Which is all a man can do.

    (Looking over my shoulder and noting my second sentence, Herself “harumphs” and retreats muttering, “Got something bloody right for once.”)

  • Pete Baker

    Interesting link, The West.

    Rory

    I’m all for caution on such matters – and I’ll moderate comments appropriately on this post – but I’m not for advocating silence on any topic.

    Dec

    One point raised in the paragraph you highlight is that the two alleged victims, who are stated to have “raised £6million in the name of the IRA”, “cannot be named for legal reasons”.

  • circles

    Ohhhh c’mon Pete – surely McGuiness’s brother-in-law can somehow be implicated in this too!
    I’m disappointed – get that thinking cap on!!

    On the other hand – nice to see you’re still triyng.

  • IRIA

    Are we now supposed to think that Marty O’ is involved or something? Is that what’s being insinuated? Careful lads…

  • cuts one way

    Guilt by association IRIA – republicans should get at least 10 years for that as its tantamount to treason.

    Unionists on the other hand get a pat on the back, a poster to burn and become Lord Mayor of Lisburn – and rightly so I say!!!

  • Rory Carr

    Pete, I am not for “advocating silence on any topic” either. I am merely warning of the pitfalls of commentary during the process of a trial.

    I am of course confident that your moderating skills are more than up to the task of protecting us all from the dangers of self harm that lurk in sailing too close to the wind.