Properties seized from alleged IRA killer Sean Hughes

A man accused in the House of Commons of being one of the IRA's most ruthless killers has had his properties seized for suspected money laundering.

The High Court in Belfast granted an order freezing assets held by Sean Gerard Hughes and his wife, Annette, from south Armagh.

The Serious and Organised Crime Agency alleged his properties were the result of laundering the proceeds of mortgage fraud, tax evasion and benefit fraud.

East Belfast Democratic Unionist MP and now party leader Peter Robinson used parliamentary privilege in December 2002 to link Hughes to the South Quay bombing at London's Canary Wharf in 1996, which killed two people and brought the previous IRA ceasefire to an end.

He said Hughes was also responsible for the murder of 12 soldiers at Warrenpoint, Co Down, a mortar bomb in Newry, Co Down, and the killing of Lord Chief Justice Maurice Gibson and his wife Cecily in 1987.

He said Hughes was the most "ruthless killer and thug" in the ranks of the IRA.

Soca was granted a receiving order in the High Court, taking control of properties that Hughes and his wife, from Aghadavoyle Road, Drumintee, south Armagh, own.

A spokeswoman for Soca said: "Seeking the interim receiving order, Soca alleged to the court that the properties were derived from laundering the proceeds of mortgage fraud, tax evasion and benefit fraud."

Assets frozen include eight houses in south Armagh, an apartment in south Belfast, the proceeds from the sale of three other houses in south Armagh and several bank accounts.

The High Court order was also granted against 10 other people: Sean Francis Hughes; Ciaran James Hughes; Sarah (Sally) Hughes; Paul Michael Hughes; Thomas Noel Hughes; Bridget Philomena Hughes; Aidan McKeown; Seamus Faulds; Francis Raymond Murphy; and Madeleine Murphy.

But Sinn Fein MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy hit out at Soca and criticised the decision to stage police raids at the South Armagh properties this morning.

Mr Murphy, a minister in the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, said: "Sean Hughes is a sound republican. He has spent his entire adult life engaged in the struggle for Irish unity and independence.

"He has championed the peace process and the campaign to end political policing. There have been numerous attempts over the years to smear Sean's character."

He added: "The raids today on Sean's home and those of a number of his relatives have caused deep anger in South Armagh. There is no justification for the deliberate targeting of Sean and his family today.

"Sean has been charged with nothing. Neither have any members of his family. It is unacceptable."

* Source: The Belfast Telegraph