Pubs investigated for link to IRA

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The Independent Online
A GARDA anti-racketeering unit is investigating republican involvement in the Irish Republic's licensed trade amid reports that the IRA may have built up an extensive network of pubs to provide a long-term income for the organisation.

The investigation follows a national clampdown by the republic's tax authorities, the Revenue Commissioners, who have long suspected large-scale tax fiddles by many publicans.

This recently led to a controversial decision to oppose renewal of publicans' licences where the landlord could not provide an inspectors' certificate to show his or her tax account was up to date.

The tax investigations are reported to have pointed to larger irregularities in pub accounts, arousing suspicion that some were laundering IRA funds. A Garda spokesman yesterday would not say how many bars were affected.

The Sunday Times had suggested 25 pubs in Dublin and 12 outside the capital were suspected of operating as IRA fronts.

The importance of IRA fund- raising in the republic has increased in recent years because of the success of the anti-racketeering squad of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in breaking up paramilitary fund-raising in Northern Ireland.

The IRA was widely suspected of the January raid on a bank cash depot in Waterford in which Ir pounds 2.25m ( pounds 2.34m) was stolen. During the summer there were rumours that some of the proceeds of the operation had been used to buy a pub in central Dublin.

The IRA was also believed to have been behind a night-time mail train robbery in March 1990, estimated to have netted up to Ir pounds 1m. The exact amount stolen was never established.

Links between the IRA and pub ownership have been alleged over many years. In 1985 Allan Clancy, an Irish-born businessman, then 59, who owned bars in New York before retiring to Co Louth, from where he controlled a string of Dublin pubs, had Ir pounds 1.75m of his assets frozen by the Dublin government, using emergency powers passed by the Dail.

It was alleged the cash was IRA money which he was laundering. He denied the claim, saying the funds were, in part, business profits earned over several years and transferred to Ireland to establish a bacon export business. Mr Clancy initiated legal proceedings to have the funds returned.

In the last two years the republic has witnessed extraordinarily high prices being paid for pubs in the Dublin area. Irish pubs are predominantly free houses, with breweries owning only a handful for market research, which helps provide a steady turnover of licensed premises.