MI5 agent: I discussed arms deal with accused

7 May 2010
Belfast Telegraph

An undercover intelligence agent has started giving evidence from behind screens in the trial of three Co Armagh men in connection with what has been described as an international arms smuggling plot by dissident republicans.

The witness, known only as Amir, was hidden from everyone in Belfast Crown Court, except judge Mr Justice Hart and lawyers. The witness, who spoke with an English accent, didn't reveal which security service he was working for, but an earlier hearing was told the operation was part of an MI5 sting against the Real IRA.

On trial are Paul Anthony John McCaugherty (43) from Beech Court, Desmond Paul Kearns (44) from Tannaghmore Green, both Lurgan, and 41-year-old Dermot Declan Gregory (aka Michael Dermot) from Concession Road in Crossmaglen.

McCaughey faces seven charges: conspiring to possess firearms and explosives and using almost €46,000 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, Gregory is accused of making the deeds of the Alvor restaurant in Portugal available for the purposes of terrorism.

Amir told the court he started an operation in August, 2004 against Irish targets and his role was to glean information from a man regarding his activities and associates in Northern Ireland. The witness said he knew the man as John and was shown a photograph of him. The court heard yesterday that he was in reality the accused, Kearns.

Amir said he first met Kearns outside a store in Luxembourg where he was buying cut-price cigarettes and he told him he could supply them even cheaper. 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.

Amir said at one meeting, Alison told him: “You should go over to Ireland and supply them with weapons”. She subsequently denied that she had been serious. However 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 when the subject of guns was raised, Kearns said he would go to his associates and see what they thought but he insisted he didn't want to get involved in any meetings.

A tape recording of one meeting in an Amsterdam bar has been played in court.

The case continues.

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