French house intended as RIRA gun store

26 May 2010
UTV News
A rundown house in the south of France was to be used to store guns bound for the Real IRA in Northern Ireland, a court has heard.

An alleged dissident republican made the claim to an undercover secret service agent in Belgium.

The agent - known only as 'Ali' - told Belfast Crown Court about the revelation allegedly made by weapons-plot accused Paul Anthony McCaugherty during a meeting in Bruges.

McCaugherty is one of three men on trial over the plot to smuggle weapons into Northern Ireland.

The agent said McCaugherty - who was calling himself 'Tim' - told him that the house in a small village in France had been purchased for 23,000 euro and another five or six thousand euro would be spent making it habitable.

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

The Co. Armagh trio of McCaugherty, from Beech Court, Desmond Paul Kearns (44) from Tannaghmore Green, both Lurgan, and 41-year-old Dermot Declan Gregory aka Michael Dermot Gregory from Concession Road in Crossmaglen, deny a total of 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.

It also claims McCaugherty, calling himself 'Tim', handled the money and negotiated the deals - and that Gregory handled a Portuguese restaurant being used to raise funds for a terrorist group.

'Ali' told the court that after the meeting in Bruges, 'Tim' gave him a bag which he later discovered contained 18,000 euro. He said the bag was extremely heavy because it also had two lead plates inside, again to deflect X-ray scanners.

The court also heard that at one point, 'Tim' 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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