Ex-IRA chief held on cigs racket

From today's Irish Independent.
"THE alleged former boss of the Provisional IRA in Dublin has been arrested in connection with a massive cigarette smuggling operation in Spain.

Police detained Dickie O'Neill at his home in Alicante where he has been living for several years after allegedly being removed from his post in charge of the IRA's so-called southern command.

O'Neill was said by gardai to have been in charge of the Provisionals' southern units in 1996 when Det Gda Jerry McCabe was murdered by an IRA gang during an abortive raid on a postal van at Adare, Co Limerick.

Four members of the IRA unit were subsequently convicted of the killing. O'Neill was said to have stepped aside and left for Spain shortly afterwards.

Last month, following an application by the DPP, the Special Criminal Court in Dublin cancelled a warrant, issued in 1998, for the arrest of Gerard 'Dickie' O'Neill, a native of Belfast, with an address at Cushlawn Park, Tallaght, on a charge of membership of an unlawful organisation, styling itself as the Irish Republican Army, on July 12, 1997.

However, garda officers continue to have the option to seek either another warrant to detain O'Neill or to look for his return to Ireland under a European arrest warrant.

Also arrested by Spanish police in the house in the small town of Rojales, inland from the resort of Torrevieja and south of Alicante, was Sean Hunt, from Ramilles Road in Ballyfermot, Dublin.

Hunt was described by the Spaniards as the ringleader of the smuggling operation and the detentions followed a two-year investigation by the Spanish and British authorities into the scam.

Last week, police arrested a 32-year-old man with addresses in Dublin and Kildare and a 42-year-old man from Lisburn in Northern Ireland at Malaga on the Costa del Sol.

These arrests resulted from the seizure of half-a-million packets of cigarettes, worth €1m on the Spanish market.

The cigarettes were found hidden in furniture in two lorries and were thought to have been one of a series of shipments from Spain to the UK. The two men were later released on bail by an investigating judge at Spain's national criminal court in Madrid after they were charged with tobacco smuggling.

Three years ago, Hunt was successful in the Supreme Court when he appealed against a High Court decision granting a judgment for €1.77m to the Criminal Assets Bureau for alleged unpaid income tax and VAT.

The court found the CAB was not entitled to seek judgment in circumstances where assessments in relation to Hunt were not, at the time the proceedings had been taken, final and conclusive under tax legislation and because no prior demand for tax had been made.

The court also ruled he had not exhausted his right to appeal against the assessments to the Revenue Appeals Commissioners.

And the court held that bank statements related to accounts in the name of Hunt's wife, Rosaleen Hunt, also known as Jean Hunt and Jean Maher, which CAB alleged were beneficially in the ownership of Sean Hunt, were not admissible in evidence.

The CAB also lost its claim that costs should not be awarded to the Hunts.

In an earlier hearing, evidence was given by the head of CAB, Det Chief Supt Felix McKenna, that Hunt was arrested in 1995 for the murder of a man in Ballyfermot, which gardai believed had been carried out by the Provisional IRA.

Hunt was subsequently released without charge.

Evidence was also given that Hunt was suspected by CAB of being a member of a criminal gang in Ballyfermot, highly involved in cigarette smuggling."
Andyroo said:
From today's Irish Independent.
"THE alleged former boss of the Provisional IRA in Dublin has been arrested in connection with a massive cigarette smuggling operation in Spain.
So now it comes too light. Did seem a bit odd when the RIRA were first accused.

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