3 face terror weapons trial after 'spy sting'

6 May 2010
Trio 'wanted to restart' the Troubles

Three men were arrested over an alleged Europe-wide plot to buy weapons after a two-year British secret service sting operation, a court heard yesterday.

The suspects are also accused of conspiring to buy cigarettes in a deal stretching to Holland, Portugal and Turkey. Belfast Crown Court heard one of the suspects alleged he made the Omagh bomb and said his organisation had EUR100,000 to "restart things" in Northern Ireland.

Co Armagh men Paul Anthony John McCaugherty, 43, of Beech Court, Desmond Paul Kearns, 44, from Tannaghmore Green, both Lurgan, and 41-year-old Dermot Declan Gregory aka Michael Dermot, of Concession Road, Crossmaglen, deny seven charges.

McCaugherty is accused of conspiring to possess weapons, using EUR46,000 for terrorist purposes, IRA membership and making the deeds of a Portuguese restaurant available for terrorism.

Kearns is charged with conspiring to possess firearms and explosives, while Gregory is accused of making the deeds of the Alvor restaurant in Portugal available for the purposes of terrorism.


Prosecutor Gordon Kerr told Mr Justice Hart the operation began in 2004 and involved secretly-recorded meetings in Europe. He said: "The offences arise from an operation conducted with the Security Services, to disrupt the supply and flow of money to dissidents."

Mr Kerr claimed Kearns was a go-between, McCaugherty handled cash and negotiated deals and Gregory handled the restaurant. Mr Kerr said in custody Kearns "generally declined" to answer questions, while McCaugherty "refused" fearing he would be taped.

Gregory "remained mostly silent" but later told police he had been approached by the IRA and "every step was under duress". Mr Kerr added: "The initial part of the operation commenced with a role player used by security services who was and will be referred to as Amir. "He was assisted by other operatives, in particular his driver called Immran."

The lawyer said Amir and Kearns met initially to set up a cigarettes deal. But by September 2005, Kearns allegedly agreed to meet with a friend of Amir's from Pakistan called Ali, who was also an undercover operative. McCaugherty, who allegedly handed over bundles of euros, said he needed "explosives, pistols, AK47s, armour-piercing stuff".

Mr Kerr claimed they had made the Omagh bomb but others "screwed it up".

The trial continues.

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