Dissident guilty of anti-tank gun plot

1 July 2010
Maurice Fitzmaurice

MI5 sting snares republican

A DISSIDENT republican who tried to buy anti-tank rockets from MI5 agents was found guilty of conspiring to obtain arms and explosives yesterday.

"Roly-poly" Paul Anthony McCaugherty from Beech Court, Lurgan, Co Armagh. yawned as a Belfast Crown Court judge rejected defence claims he had been "entrapped or induced" by the "role-playing agent" known only as "Ali". The 43-year-old was one of three men arrested following a two-year operation between August 2004 and June 2006.

The trial heard how the wannabe Real IRA arms procurer was duped as he was wined and dined by a British Secret Service agent in Amsterdam, Bruges and Istanbul.

McCaugherty had denied a total of seven charges including three charges of using money for the purposes of terrorism, and one of making a restaurant in Alvor, Portugal, available for use by terrorists.

The Laganside court heard McCaugherty's shopping list of weapons included 100 kgs of plastic explosive, 20 AK-47 assault rifles, 10 sniper rifles, 20 handguns, 20 rocket propelled grenade launchers, and several arm-burst launchers capable of taking out armoured vehicles.

Mr Justice Hart said that McCaugherty had been completely taken in by the MI5 operatives, described as "Covert Human Intelligence Sources" and that simply because the entire operation was an elaborate hoax did not mean he could not be found guilty.

He added that agent "Ali" had simply played the role of an arms dealer, and without inducement or pressure, offered a determined McCaugherty the opportunity to buy what he thought were arms and explosives.

Turning to McCaugherty's co-accused Dermott Declan Gregory, also known as Michael Dermot Gregory, 41, of Concession Road in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, for making the Portuguese restaurant available, the judge said "there is no evidence that he was compelled to do it".

His defence had claimed that he had been acting under duress when he arranged for the deeds of the Panda Restaurant in Alvor to be handed over to the IRA.

Mr Justice Hart said it was also "striking" that fingerprints belonging to Gregory were found on a EUR100 note among a bundle of over EUR17,000 which was to be used as one of the instalments for the arms cache. The judge said: "The prosecution have satisfied me beyond all reasonable doubt that he did not act under duress in his dealings with the IRA and I find him guilty."

Both men have been remanded back into custody for sentencing in the new Crown Court term in September.

While the trial was ongoing, Gregory appeared at Newry court on terrorist-related charges while McCaugherty appeared at Lisburn court at the weekend facing charges of having material likely to be of use to terrorists.

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