Kearns 'frustrated' at slow pace of deal

11 May 2010
Court hears undercover agent's secret recordings

A court heard recordings of secretly taped meetings between an undercover agent and men accused of involvement in a dissident republican arms smuggling plot yesterday. A witness, known only as Amir, was again hidden from everyone in Belfast Crown Court, except for trial judge Mr Justice Hart and prosecution and defence lawyers.

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

The prosecution claim during a security services operation between August 2004 and June 2006, 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 a restaurant being used to raise funds for a terrorist group.

Yesterday more secretly-taped meetings between Amir and John, said to be Kearns, were played to the court after the operative outlined what he personally remembered of them. In one meeting in Amsterdam in September 2005, Amir claimed he again met John in a cafe and that initially he was alone when he met him.

Unlike other meetings he said, John was also alone, explaining that his wife Alison, whom he had met before, but never again, was feeling unwell. Amir claimed that John "was a bit upset about the IRA decommissioning" and told him that people and groups were becoming disillusioned by it all.

Talking about an earlier meeting where he offered to set up a meeting between "his friends" and "John's friends", Amir asked if "John's friend" was still interested in such a meeting. Amir said he got the impression John felt he was "doing a lot more then he expected to be doing".

He added that he told John that his friend "Ali", who was to be the weapons' specialist, had returned to Amsterdam with him and was willing to meet up, however before then, he introduced Ali's driver, a man called "Denis" to him. Amir said that Denis later drove him and John to John's hotel to drop off a consignment of cigarettes. John, he said, later agreed to meeting Ali, and they drove to a bar not far from the 'steak-house'. He said that he and John chatted for a while before Denis returned with Ali and that John and he then spoke privately together. Amir claimed that after the meeting John told him "he was very happy" the way things had gone, and that when he returned home he would "talk to his friends".

Two months later in November 2005, the pair, Amir and John, met again, this time in O'Reilly's Bar in Brussels. John, he said, appeared "frustrated" and complained that while people said they were interested, "things weren't going fast enough", and that people weren't really trying.

He also complained he was told to "ask more questions", although he did mention something "about prices, that they were happy about the prices". Amir claimed he also remembered John, "getting out his cigarette lighter and shaking it", saying that they need "these and dets, detonators".

The trial continues.

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