Medal and £650k or I walk: MI5 witness

28 October 2009
The Irish News
Barry McCaffrey

The chief MI5 witness in a Real IRA arms trial refused to give evidence unless he was given £650,000 and a medal from the Queen.

Paul McCaugherty (43), of Beech Court, and Desmond Kearns (44), of Tannaghmore Green, both in Lurgan, are to stand trial next year over an alleged plot to smuggle weapons from mainland Europe.

Dermot Gregory (41), also known as Michael Dermot, of Concession Road in Crossmaglen, also faces related charges.

The trio from Co Armagh were arrested after a three-year 'sting' involving an MI5 agent codenamed 'Amir'.

Amir accused MI5 of betrayal when, despite earlier assurances, he was ordered to give evidence against the dissident suspects.

It has now emerged that he demanded £650,000 from MI5 for the stress caused.

Amir's solicitor wrote to MI5: "I would invite you to agree to pay to my client the sum of £450,000 within 28 days in full and final settlement of his current claims.

"Please also confirm that you will agree to a life contingency payment of £200,000."

In later correspondence Amir also demanded a £30,000 'retainer'.

"Amir would be prepared to hold his 'grievance' (as it has been referred to by you) in abeyance pending the criminal trial in Northern Ireland," his solicitor wrote.

He said his client "seeks to be paid a lump sum of £30,000 reflecting a monthly income or retainer of £2,500".

Amir's solicitor warned that this was his "final position".

"If your client (MI5] does not, then our client will withdraw his cooperation with the authorities in Northern Ireland and pursue a civil claim against the service for breach of contract and/or breach of their duty of care to him," he wrote.

Amir claimed that MI5 had promised him an honour from the Queen, only to withdraw it after he refused to give evidence.

In an internal MI5 memo his handlers wrote: "Amir raised the fact that he had been told by the (redacted) that an honour was long overdue and that he had 'definitely been put down for one and it had gone through various people and it is on the desk of somebody'.

"Amir stated that he had raised it again a few weeks later and (redacted) stated that it was definitely happening 100 per cent.

"Amir stated that he believed he had not received the honour as a result of his refusal to provide evidence on (redacted). Amir request-ed that he be told why he did not receive the honour."

Thirty-five MI5 agents will testify anonymously at the trial. All the defendants deny the charges.

In a separate development yesterday, dissident republicans were suspected of involvement in an attempt to smuggle the largest ever haul of illegal cigarettes into Brit-ain or Ireland. The haul was seized at Greenore port in Co Louth.

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