Dissident Threat - Trial told of house in France for guns cache

27 May 2010
The Irish News

An alleged dissident republican told an undercover MI5 agent that his "friends" had bought a run-down house in the south of France to store guns bound for the Real IRA in Northern Ireland, a trial heard yesterday.

The agent, known only as 'Ali', told Belfast Crown Court that the disclosure came during a meeting in Bruges, Belgium, with Paul McCaugherty, one of three men on trial over a plot to smuggle weapons.

The witness said McCaugherty, who was calling himself 'Tim', told him that the house in a small village had been bought for EUR23,000 (about £19,000) and that EUR5,000 or EUR6,000 would be needed to make it habitable.

He said McCaugherty mentioned a trailer waiting in Spain which had been fitted with a false floor and lead plates to deflect scanners from finding hidden weapons.

McCaugherty (39), of Beech Court, Desmond Kearns (44), of Tannaghmore Green, both Lurgan, Co Armagh, and Dermot Gregory (41), also known as Michael Dermot, of Concession Road in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, deny eight charges.

The prosecution case is that during a two-year security services operation between August 2004 and June 2006, Kearns, going by the name of 'John' acted as a go-between, that McCaugherty handled the money and negotiated the deals and that Gregory handled a Portuguese restaurant being used to raise funds for a terrorist group.

The court also heard that at one point McCaugherty also told Ali about how money was raised in Ireland through a pyramid scheme which was a "semi-con" in which people donated sums of up to £7,000.

The trial continues.

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