“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.”