A SENIOR retired police officer has said that Sinn Fein may have blocked the extension of a National Crime Agency to Northern Ireland because some of the party’s funding could come under scrutiny from the proposed body.
Former RUC and PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Norman Baxter said that he was not surprised at Sinn Fein’s decision to veto the creation of a UK-wide FBI-style agency to tackle serious organised crime because of the IRA’s long involvement in criminality.
However, Mr Baxter, who led the investigation into the 1998 Omagh Bomb, said that he was “quite surprised” by the SDLP’s decision to block the new body.
Mr Baxter told the News Letter that he had “major concerns” about how Sinn Fein is funded, and added: “I would certainly have some concern that some of the money comes from sources that could be the subject of investigation by the NCA.”
Mr Baxter, who now works as a security consultant, said: “I’m not surprised at Sinn Fein blocking it because they would have a vested interest in preventing any organisation that would potentially investigate Provisional IRA money laundering and assets gained during the Troubles.
“I’m quite surprised at the SDLP because the decision to block the NCA in Northern Ireland will have a major impact on the protection of children and human trafficking, along with other organised crime which impacts on the economy.”
Mr Baxter dismissed claims by the SDLP and Sinn Fein that there was insufficient oversight of the NCA’s proposed activities.
“I think that’s a defective line of thinking because the oversight mechanisms for the NCA are set at national level. We’re still part of the United Kingdom and therefore the accountability mechanisms in the rest of the United Kingdom would apply here. They would be accountable for their actions to the courts and to the legislation that establishes the NCA.”
Mr Baxter also said that he did not believe there were any significant differences between the proposed new agency and the body which it is largely replacing, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), other than to bring under one organisation the powers of a number of current law enforcement agencies to make it “more efficient and more effective”.
A spokesman for Sinn Fein said: “The simple fact is that it’s not accountable to the mechanisms of accountability set up under the Good Friday Agreement and that’s it. That’s why we’re opposed to it — no other reason.”