On the 10th anniversary of the Northern Bank robbery, the police have affirmed that the case remains live, and urged anyone with fresh information to step forward.
The heist began on December 19, 2004, and saw £26.5m plundered from the bank, with the IRA widely deemed to have been responsible.
One expert said that the haul was so large that some of it may still not have been laundered by the organisation.
Former assistant chief constable Alan McQuillan said: “The Provos had a network that was designed to cope with their normal money laundering, but to suddenly try to squeeze an extra £26 million through that in a year is just impossible without showing.
“So I suspect this money was held and gradually filtered in over five or six years but some of it may still not be.”
Ahead of the anniversary, detectives have insisted the hunt goes on for the perpetrators. But a decade on from the audacious evening robbery, carried out only yards from streets bustling with Christmas shoppers and revellers, police appear no closer to bringing the gang responsible to justice.
In a statement, Detective Sergeant David Martin, from Crime Operations Department, said: “The investigation remains open. Police would appeal to anyone with information about the robbery to contact them.”
The PSNI would not put anyone up for interview, and when it comes to progress on the case, a spokesman said they could not go beyond that statement.
To date there have been 20 arrests by police probing the crime; 13 in Northern Ireland and seven in the Republic.
There have been four individuals charged in Northern Ireland, of which one stood trial and was acquitted.
Two stood trial in the Republic, and were both convicted (see below right).
Sinn Fein denied the IRA was involved in the crime but that view has always flown against the assessment of the authorities on both sides of the Irish border.
The bank still trades from the same location although it was renamed Danske Bank in 2012 after its Danish parent company.
In its aftermath then PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde made a public statement to say that, having assessed the available evidence, he believed the Provisional IRA was to blame.
The IRA had been suspected of carrying out other cash raids and robberies – despite being on ceasefire.
A hunt for the cash was launched across Ireland, while the Northern Bank took the extraordinary action of re-issuing new-look bank notes to try to render the stolen cash worthless. Mr McQuillan – who joined the Assets Recovery Agency after leaving the police force – expressed doubt at the effectiveness of that step and noted that most of the haul would have been unaffected.
He said the IRA had a “strong network for getting rid of dirty money”.
“They were making very substantial amounts of money through various criminal enterprises – smuggling, counterfeiting, oil tampering – so they had systems in place to launder all of that,” he said. “Some of those involved corrupt intermediaries who would take the money and wash it for them
“They had networks of companies set up to do that. But it’s one thing to be outing five or 10 million a year through that – try and put £26 million through on top of that is a big issue and therefore it would have taken them time to filter it away.
“I imagine it was probably filtered away through various fake businesses and deals overseas, it was probably cashed in various accounts around the world and maybe invested in property in the property boom.
“Some of it could still be out there, it may be sitting somewhere.”
See Morning View, page 44