Agent gives evidence in arms plot trial

7 May 2010
The Guardian
Owen Bowcott

An intelligence agent began giving evidence yesterday against three Northern Irish men accused of involvement in a dissident republican arms-smuggling plot. The man, identified only as "Amir", appeared at Belfast crown court but was partially screened. The undercover operative did not identify his branch of the security services but an earlier hearing was told the operation was part of an MI5 sting against the Real IRA.

Between them the County Armagh men - Paul Anthony John McCaugherty, 43, and Desmond Paul Kearns, 44, both from Lurgan, and 41-year-old Dermot Declan Gregory, also known as Michael Dermot, from Crossmaglen - deny a total of seven charges.

McCaugherty is accused of conspiring to possess firearms and explosives and using almost euros 46,000 for terrorist purposes, membership of "the Irish Republican army", and making the deeds of a restaurant in Portugal available for the purposes of terrorism. Kearns is accused of conspiring to possess firearms and explosives, and Gregory of the restaurant charge.

Amir told the court that he started work in August 2004 in an operation against Irish targets. He said he first met Kearns outside a store in Luxembourg. After a series of meetings in bars in Brussels and Amsterdam, the witness said he sold Kearns and a woman he was told was his wife, Alison, cigarettes, laptops, clothes and jewellery before mentioning that he could get guns from Pakistan.

In July 2005, the security services told Amir that he should introduce a man to Kearns as a weapons expert called Ejaz. The witness said that when the subject of guns was raised, Kearns said he would go back to his associates but insisted he did not want to get involved in any meetings himself. The case continues.

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