Wrap the greenback round me

By Staff Reporter

The Andersonstown News can today reveal the extent to which so-called dissident republicans are involved in the criminal underworld in Belfast. While they would chide mainstream republicans for selling out for limos and salaries, we can reveal that it is these groups that are obsessed with money – carrying out robberies and tiger kidnappings, selling drugs and shooting other drug dealers who refuse to pay them protection money.

In our extensive investigation, which covers the past two years, we have also discovered that members have moved seamlessly through the alphabet soup of the various dissident groups and the myriad of factions that have broken away from these groups in recent years. This has led to suspicion that the groups have been infiltrated by MI5 and PSNI Special Branch – and in some cases are being directed by them.

In most cases the groups have used the implicit threat that comes from the organisation’s paramilitary capabilities  as the ‘fear factor’ when carrying out their criminal activities. Yet, apart from a handful of incidents, their ‘military’ activities have been few and far between. During Easter week – the most important date in the republican calendar – the worry within the republican heartlands of West and North Belfast is that these groups will hijack the good name of republicanism and by their criminal activities will sully the memory of those who have gone before.

In response to our investigation, West Belfast MP Paul Maskey has appealed to republicans who may have given tacit support to these groups in the past to desist.

“There is not one of these groups, gangs, call them what you will, that is not involved in money-related crime, extortion, intimidation, threats. I have spoken to the victims of these groups too often. Burning down a shop or robbing a local pub has nothing to do with Irish freedom,” he said.

“This weekend republicans will gather at the graves of our patriot dead to remember with pride their sacrifice. Criminality has no place within republicanism.

“It is well known that there are people involved in dissident republican groups who are career criminals. I find it hard to rationalise people who claim to be republican but in fact have a long history of criminality and confrontation with the community now wrapping themselves in the republican flag.

“Those spokespeople who in the past have sought to give public support to these groupings now need to make it clear where they stand in the face of mounting evidence of widespread and endemic criminality within their ranks.

“I call on these groups to desist from these activities and disband.”

We can reveal that several gangs are involved in the dissident crime wave, but all have one thing in common: they are all anti-community, attacking and feeding off the very people they claim to protect.

We’ll not be using the names of the groups involved simply because there is so much criminal interaction between the groups that the titles have become virtually meaningless. And while the names of those involved are widely known to the community and to the PSNI, for the purpose of this article we’ll be using letters to identify individuals, all of whom claim membership of various dissident republican groups.

We begin in January 2010 when dissident groups came together to carry out raids on the homes of two gun club members who lived in West Belfast. The main architects of these robberies were A and B. The victims lived at Larkspur Park, Suffolk Road and at Ballymurphy Road. In the Larkspur raid a shotgun and two handguns were stolen. The owner of the weapons received gunshot wounds to his leg after he refused to hand the weapons over. The two handguns were later recovered in PSNI intelligence-led swoops.

B and two other men, C and D, took over a house in the Andersonstown area where a family was held captive. The mother, who worked in Matalan, was instructed to travel to work and take whatever money there was in the safe. The gang made off with £18,000. C is now living in the Republic and suspected of involvement in the murders of Ed Burns and Joe Jones in Belfast five years ago. B was a witness to one of those murders.

E, a well-known criminal in the lower Falls, has robbed a bookmakers on the Grosvenor Road on a number of occasions and on each occasion the proceeds of the robbery was handed over to the well-known leader of a dissident group in West Belfast and E received a cut of the haul.

D was involved in the shooting of a man on the Stewartstown Road as he attempted to escape a dissident extortion team, while D and F kidnapped a businessman, demanding  £50,000 for his safe return. £12,000 was paid by the gang and he was released.  This dissident clique has also in the past been involved in raids on a number of premises in which drug dealers used to store large quantity of drugs. In all incidents those involved took a quantity of drugs for personal use while the rest of the drugs were sold.

Another gang operates out of the Upper Springfield and all have a history in death-driving, robbery and drug-dealing. They are under the control of a West Belfast businessman.

One of their members, G, from Turf Lodge, teamed up with F and H, also from Turf Lodge, another well-known criminal, to target a Turf Lodge drug dealer, demanding £10,000 from him. The drug dealer’s family intervened and he did not pay up. He was shot by G and by I, who is himself known for his dealing in drugs.

Another member of this gang is J who is well known in the area for his involvement in drug-dealing and the importation of drugs. Last month he was part of a gang which ordered up to ten young people out of the Turf Lodge area due to their alleged involvement in anti-social activity. Also involved in ordering the young people out of Turf Lodge is K, who in the past was shot by the same gang who claimed that he was involved in drug dealing.

Other members of this gang include L, who robbed a bookmakers in the Upper Springfield and was once shot for drug-dealing. M has spent time in prison for cash-in-transit robberies. N has come through the ranks of the local hoods to join this Upper Springfield group.

O, a notorious cigarette smuggler and extortionist, lives in Twinbrook. Due to his criminal activity, O has built up a property portfolio including a holiday home in Spain; he has close connections with Dublin criminals. The seedy world that he and his gang operate in is best illustrated by a recent incident. O was under threat from a rival dissident group after he and two nephews had agreed to shoot an alleged rapist. The request was made by the son of another dissident. The nephews agreed to carry out the shooting for £5,000. £2,000 was handed over while the remaining £3,000 was to be paid when the job was completed. When the shooting wasn’t carried out the money was demanded back. O and his nephews went to the dissident’s son’s house and robbed him of £50,000 worth of cocaine. At this point the rival dissident organisation became involved and demanded the return of the drugs.

In the lower Falls, well-known criminal and drug dealer P was responsible for firing a shot into the home of a Filipino family in Distillery Street in January this year. Along with another criminal, Q, he robbed two elderly brothers of £4,000 and gave the money to another dissident leader. Q and another associate, R, have also been involved in the extortion of drug dealers in the lower Falls area. Another dissident group took £100,000 from a Falls drug dealer after learning that the money was stashed in his mother’s house.

The list goes on and the anti-community, anti-republican activities continue. In some cases, while one group issues threats, other members of the same group mediate and determine the punishment. The same activities that we have highlighted in West Belfast have also been taken place in Ardoyne, New Lodge and Short Strand over the past two years. Different names, but the same shabby world. The money involved is mind-boggling. In one case a former drug dealer was told to pay a dissident organisation £300,000 or be shot.

As we reported two weeks ago, S from the New Lodge and B from West Belfast are the main source of the counterfeit Isle of Man £20 notes and £1 coins that have swamped Belfast. The counterfeit £1 coins were bought from a loyalist source. The counterfeit £20s are sold by S for £4 which undercuts another dissident from Andersonstown who sells the counterfeit notes for £5. Another of S’s gang is a creeper burglar from the Short Strand, T, who has also received a punishment shooting in the past after being abducted in the New Lodge and brought to Twinbrook after it was alleged he had stolen drugs which had been confiscated from a drug dealer.

Tiger kidnapping is another source of easy money as the dissidents see it – but a terrifying ordeal for those targeted. U from North Belfast headed up a tiger kidnapping team and it’s believed that they have been involved in up to ten kidnappings. Although U has been dismissed from the organisation, he tried to extort money from a North Belfast businessman. On another occasion he demanded a cut from a £200,000 drugs deal.

Two brothers from Ardoyne, V and W, are behind extortion demands from criminals in that area. On one occasion they demanded up to £30,000 from two criminals and claimed if the money was not paid they would kill them. They also carried out the shooting of an alleged sex offender after the alleged victim paid them to carry out the shooting. And this year has shown no let-up. A New Lodge drug dealer who has spent time in Maghaberry prison was approached and told he had to pay up to £5,000 to continue his trade. He agreed and paid the money to an individual in Short Strand where he was told that if any other group demanded money from him he was to say he was a member of a dissident organisation and not to pay.

And no amount is too small. When a house was taken over in North Belfast in February this year by a dissident gang claiming they were looking for drugs, the gang left after those in the house eventually convinced them that they had the wrong address. It was only after the gang had gone that the family realised that £40 set aside for lunch money had been taken. Every penny counts, it seems, when you haven’t sold out.

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