Witness says accused's friends 'interested' in a weapons deal

11 May 2010
The Irish News

For a second day running a security services undercover operative has been giving evidence in the trial of three Co Armagh men charged in connection with a so-called international arms smuggling plot by dissident republicans.

The witness, known only as Amir, was again hidden from everyone in Belfast Crown Court, save for Mr Justice Hart and the various prosecution and defence lawyers.

Between them the trio, 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 Gregory from Concession Road in Crossmaglen, deny a total of eight charges.

The prosecution said 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, 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.

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-restaurant they called a steak-house and that initially he was alone when they met. He said that unlike other meetings, John was also alone, explaining that his wife Alison, whom Amir had met before, but never again, was feeling unwell.

Amir said 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. John allegedly replied "that his friend was interested", but complained that "not enough was being done about it".

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 meet 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.

Amir said that he questioned John about his meeting with Ali, as he wanted to "gauge some sort of reaction", but that the response he got was very similar to the reaction he always got. 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 case continues.


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