Court told of MI5's two-year operation to foil weapons plot

6 May 2010
Belfast Telegraph

Three men arrested following a two-year MI5 sting operation have gone on trial in Belfast accused of involvement in an international Real IRA gun smuggling plot.

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

McCaugherty faces all seven charges -- conspiring to possess firearms and explosives and using almost €46,000 (£39,000) for terrorist purposes, membership of "the Irish Republican Army", and making the deeds of a Portuguese restaurant available for the purposes of terrorism.

Kearns is accused with him of 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.

During his hour-long opening, prosecuting QC Gordon Kerr said the sting operation began in August 2004 and ended with the arrest of the trio in June 2006.

The operation, which the court previously heard related to what police believe was an international gun smuggling plot, involved numerous meeting throughout Europe and Turkey.

Various conversations during the meetings were secretly taped and in some cases videoed.

Mr Kerr claimed that while Kearns, going by the name of 'John', acted as a go-between, McCaugherty, calling himself 'Tim', handled the money and negotiated the deals, and that Gregory handled the restaurant being used to raise funds for a terrorist group.

Mr Kerr said "the initial part of the operation commenced with a role player used by Security Services who was and will be referred to as Amir".

The lawyer said that Amir, supplied with a photograph of Kearns, approached him with a deal to supply goods, in particular cheap cigarettes.

Over the coming months and year the two met, mainly in Irish bars in Amsterdam, Brussels and Bruges, where they discussed the purchase of cheap cigarettes.

However by September 2005 Kearns allegedly agreed to meet with a friend of Amir's from Pakistan called Ali, who was also an undercover operative.

Kearns allegedly said the organisation had 100,000 euro, or dollars, to spend and during a discussion on Northern Ireland said "they had to do something to re-start things".

Mr Kerr claimed that Kearns finally introduced McCaugherty to Ali, through Amir, after which he had no further dealings with Ali.

The lawyer said that McCaugherty met with Ali on a number of occasions, even travelling to Istanbul in Turkey to allegedly discuss the supply of arms and munitions and their transportation.

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