Latest criminal gang issues threat to dealers

By Evan Short

A criminal gang based in the New Lodge, who this week threatened to target dealers across the city, is hiding behind anti-drug messages in order to extort dealers, according to a local councillor.

The gang, who labelled themselves Action Against Drugs, this week threatened to ‘execute’ drug dealers who they said had threatened to burn homes in the Hightown and Glengormley areas.

The statement was given to Raymond McCord who, the night before, had taken a photo of two armed and masked members of the gang. The men were standing in front of graffiti painted on a wall in Carlisle Road which stated ‘Action Against Drugs – Drug Dealers Will Be Shot’.

In the statement the gang said: “We the leadership of the AAD have been approached by parents of the Hightown and Glengormley areas who have been threatened to have their homes burnt if they do not pay drug debts owed by their children. This appears to be happening in Belfast and beyond. If the scum carry out these threats we will execute those involved. We now call upon anyone involved in drug dealing at any level to desist immediately or face the consequences.”

Raymond McCord said the group had also given him a list of names which he had handed over to the police.

In January of this year another gang had given him a list of people they too said was under threat although Raymond says this is a different grouping.

“No, this is a different group, a bigger group. There was around 30 masked men and some of them were carrying firearms. Some had rifles. The statement was read out by a woman.”

Raymond said he was in the New Lodge on a separate issue last Monday and was phoned and asked to meet the gang and take a photo.

“On top of that at 11pm on Tuesday they gave me a list of names who they accused of selling heroin, cocaine, etc and if they don’t leave the country they will be shot dead.

“I was searched and they gave me a statement saying that people had been complaining from up the Hightown, Glengormley and the New Lodge that drug dealers had been threatening to burn peoples’ houses down because their kids owe them money. This is what’s brought it to a head.”

Raymond said he had passed the list onto the PSNI and would have no more to do with the group.

“If people are shot, how can I mediate? The group I met last night – and I seen it quite clearly – wasn’t about mediation. I wasn’t there to mediate.”

This new group’s appearance follows the establishment of other gangs such as Correct Action Against Drugs, who use a veil of republicanism to cover their extortion and criminality. That gang claimed the murder of Whitewell man Danny McKay in October 2012 and followed the template set by ONH and CIRA in ‘taxing’ dealers for their own financial gain.

New Lodge Sinn Féin councillor JJ Magee hit out at the new grouping, accusing them of being linked to criminality.

“Threats from this masked gang will not resolve anything or improve the New Lodge area. It’s known locally that many of those making threats and hiding behind anti-drug messages are heavily involved in extorting money from the same drug dealers they claim to oppose.

“This is a good tight knit community and we are having success tackling many issues including drugs but it’s hard work that will resolve the problems not slogans and criminals feuding over drug turf.”

Raymond McCord defended his actions in taking the picture on Monday evening. “People are saying this and that, right? I’m showing people the reality of what life is. The troubles haven’t finished. I work with victims. The NI Office, Civil Service and VSS try to portray it as if – to use their term – the conflict’s over. It’s not over. It can’t be over while there’s armed men.

“No matter what you do, you’re wrong. If you don’t take a photo of it, then people are saying ‘you’d an opportunity, why did you not take a photograph and show people’, and if you do take the photo you’re wrong.

“I take it on my own judgement. No one forces me to do it. I am showing exactly what life’s like in North Belfast at the minute. Now, what better way to prove it than with a photograph of masked men?”

A PSNI spokesman said they wouldn’t comment on threats.

“We do not discuss the security of any individual. However, if we receive information that a person’s life may be at risk we will inform the relevant persons accordingly. We never ignore anything which may put an individual at risk. No inference should be drawn from this.”

 

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