Real IRA gun smuggling trial ends

21 June 2010
A lawyer has declared it was "perfectly clear" that an alleged dissident republican was guilty of plotting to buy and smuggle guns and explosives.

The claim came from prosecuting QC Gordon Kerr as he made final submissions in the Belfast Crown Court trial of County Armagh men Paul McCaugherty and Declan Gregory, AKA Michael Dermot.

McCaugherty (43) from Beech Court in Lurgan faces a total of six charges including conspiring to get arms and explosives, IRA membership and three charges of using money for the purposes of terrorism.

Gregory (41) from Concession Road in Crossmaglen, denies two charges of making property available to terrorists.

During the course of the trial which began on May 5, Diplock no jury judge Mr Justice Hart has heard that MI5 secret service agents posing as arms dealers mounted a two year operation between August 2004 and June 2006, directed against republican activities.

It is the Crown case that throughout the numerous audio and video-taped meetings between an agent known only as 'Ali' and McCaugherty all through Europe including Amsterdam, Brussels and Instanbul, McCaugherty was trying to broker a deal to buy a cache of arms and explosives.

In one video-taped interview, recorded in Instanbul in Turkey, McCaugherty calling himself 'Tim' is seen telling the agent that his organisation was responsible for building the Omagh bomb and that he had the full support of the Real IRA's leadership to buy arms.

Giving evidence to the court Ali claimed McCaugherty, who professed to being second in command, wanted to buy 100 kilos of plastic explosives, 20 AK47 assault rifles, 10 sniper rifles, 20 handguns and 20 rocket propelled grenade launchers and that they agreed a price of 104,000 Euros.

Ali alleged that McCaugherty told him the purpose of the hand grenades was to "toss them inside British Army landrovers" because in the summer time when it's hot, they leave the rear doors open "so it's very easy to toss grenades".

"At some point I asked who they would use these against," said the agent, "He said against British Army and police but also against those who work for the authorities."

The case against Gregory is that the profits from a restaurant he owned in Portugal would be used to finance the arms deal.

The lady in whose name the restaurant was registered, Theresa Murphy, gave evidence that two men claiming to be from the IRA visited her at her Newry home and demanded she hand over the deeds and contract relating to the Panda restaurant in the Alvor area of Portugal or she would "get it".

She said they showed her a document which contained the personal details of her daughter and claimed that when she contacted Gregory to ask why he had sent the men to her house, he denied knowing anything about it.

Following the completion of all the evidence on Monday lawyers for both McCaugherty and Gregory told Mr Justice Hart they would not be calling either of the defendants to give evidence or any evidence on their behalves and that both men had been advised as to the inferences the judge might draw from their failures to give evidence.

During his closing speech Mr Kerr said it was "perfectly clear" from all the evidence the court had heard that McCaugherty was "involved in a conspiracy" to buy and smuggle guns and explosives and that as such, he was "purporting to represent" a proscribed organisation.

He argued that as McCaugherty himself had told 'Ali' he had visited Ms Murphy's home, he was also guilty of involvement of making funds available for terrorist purposes.

Turning to Gregory, Mr Kerr said that details 'Tim' gave 'Ali' during their meetings about how the deal would be financed through the Portuguese property could only have come from Gregory.

Defence QC Adrian Coulton for McCaugherty told the court that his defence "remains that in our submission the trial should be stayed...on the legal principles of entrapment".

Gregory's defence SC Phlip Magee argued that he was not guilty because his involvement was due to him acting under duress and fearing for the safety of himself and his young son.

The lawyer told the court that as per the case Gregory made during police interviews, there's a reasonable possibility that he "might have been driven to do what he did because he genuinely and reasonably believed that if he did not do so, he and his young son would either be killed or seriously injured".

In reserving his judgement Mr Justice Hart said he was grateful for counsels' submissions and said he would deliver his judgement as soon as possible but added that he was not sure if that would be before the end of term next week or in the new term in September.

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