Stolen cash found in police club as Sinn Fein is tainted by IRA scandals

Armed robbery, money-laundering and murder have left the republican movement reeling and are threatening to engulf the Northern Irish peace process. David McKittrick reports

Fifty-thousand pounds of the haul from Belfast's multi-million-pound bank robbery have turned up in a city police sports and social club following a mysterious tip-off ­ yet another twist in a drama that has left Sinn Fein and the IRA in crisis.

Fifty-thousand pounds of the haul from Belfast's multi-million-pound bank robbery have turned up in a city police sports and social club following a mysterious tip-off ­ yet another twist in a drama that has left Sinn Fein and the IRA in crisis.

Five packages, each containing £10,000, were found on Friday in the club toilet. Yesterday it was confirmed that the cash had formed part of the £26m stolen from the Northern Bank in Belfast in December.

The sudden appearance of the money looked like a republican attempt to muddy the waters after a disastrous fortnight that has left the IRA and Sinn Fein mired in a crisis springing from criminality including armed robbery, money-laundering on a huge scale, and murder.

The organisations face months of continuing investigation into republican money-laundering as the Dublin authorities said they would not let up in their efforts to combat the IRA illegality.

Pressure on Sinn Fein is mounting, with Irish police saying the money-laundering investigation would take them into some of the most respectable areas of the financial sector north and south of the border and overseas.

The Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has warned that the peace process was in crisis but the party appeared isolated yesterday, stripped of much of its political credibility. Sanctions against it are expected to be announced in the Commons by the Northern Ireland Secretary, Paul Murphy, later this week.

This follows the judgements of the British and Irish governments that the IRA carried out the Northern Bank robbery. Sinn Fein may also face fines.

The search and seizure operations showed that Dublin is determined to go beyond political gestures in attempts to combat IRA illegalities. More than £2m was recovered at venues in County Cork, with a smaller amount seized in Dublin in swoops that involved more than a hundred police officers. Irish detectives believe the money found includes some of the proceeds of the Belfast robbery, but have yet to formally confirm this.

Police have indicated that following the republican money trail may lead to inquiries overseas and to apparently conventional areas of the financial sector. The general suspicion is that republican money has been stashed away in many places and has been used to buy pubs and clubs and other property. The IRA is regarded as expert at concealing its tracks.

Almost all of those arrested have been released, though one man has been charged with membership of the Real IRA. One of those questioned and released was Tom Hanlon, a former Sinn Fein councillor and unsuccessful candidate for the Irish parliament. He has appeared in photographs with Mr Adams.

On Friday Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein said he had never met Mr Hanlon, but Irish television footage later showed the two men chatting at an election count in 2002, when Mr Hanlon stood for the Dail. The explanation given was that Mr McGuinness had met hundreds of candidates and could not be expected to remember them all.

Another of those released was a 57-year-old Cork-based company director and money-lender, Ted Cunningham. Police are continuing to examine £2.3m seized in a raid on Mr Cunningham's bungalow.

In a separate episode, the IRA in Belfast has been deeply embarrassed by the involvement of some of its members in a bar-room brawl which led to the fatal stabbing of a man.

Mr Adams strongly defended his party, seeking to politicise and personalise the activities of the authorities. He said the Irish justice minister Michael McDowell had reacted "with glee".

Claiming a smear campaign was being waged to discredit Sinn Fein, he added: "To listen to some of our political opponents, you would think that Sinn Fein as a party, Sinn Fein as an organisation, that those who vote for our party are criminals and we're not."

The Rev Ian Paisley Jnr, leader of the Democratic Unionist party said Mr Adams "was given a choice of leading Sinn Fein down a democratic path but he has decided crime pays."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital