Two men, aged 40 and 45, and a 57 year old woman were arrested in Londonderry earlier today on suspicion of paramilitary activity in connection to the INLA.
The suspects have been detained under the Terrorism Act and have been taken to Musgrave Street Police Station in Belfast for questioning.
A number of searches were also carried out in the Galliagh, Buncrana Road and Ballymagroarty areas in relation to INLA criminality including the supply of controlled drugs and illicit cigarettes, money laundering and a recent paramilitary-style attack which took place on November 14 in the Ballymagroarty area of the city.
A quantity of Class A and B drugs were seized from the search in the Galliagh area and a 17 year old male has been arrested on suspicion of possession of the drugs with intent to supply. Quantities of suspected Class C Controlled drugs were seized from the searches in the Ballymagroarty and Buncrana Road areas. Documentation, phones, computers and cash were also seized.
This follows an operation yesterday when PSNI supported HMRC officers to visit 10 shops in the Londonderry and Strabane areas where approximately 36,000 illicit cigarettes and five kilograms of illicit tobacco were seized. Counterfeit clothing, footwear, DVDs and CDs were also seized from three of the shops.
Detective Inspector Tom McClure of the PSNI’s Organised Crime Unit said: “These operations are further evidence of PSNI’s continuing commitment to tackling paramilitarism.
“INLA in Derry and Strabane claim to be protecting their communities from crime however in reality they themselves are heavily involved in a wide range of criminal money-making ‘rackets’ including extortion, supply of controlled drugs, counterfeit goods and money laundering. As well as taking a cut from alleged local drug dealers (known locally as ‘pay-to-stay’) they are also supplying controlled drugs themselves.
“INLA use brutality, threats and fear to exert control in their local communities and they recently carried out a paramilitary-style shooting of a man for having a minor altercation with INLA members. We also believe they are heavily involved in the importation and supply of illicit cigarettes into the North West and for this reason we requested HMRC’s assistance for yesterday’s operation.
“I am very concerned that all 10 shops visited yesterday in the area were found to have illicit cigarettes on their premises. Retailers who stock and sell illicit cigarettes to the public should think carefully about the potential implications upon conviction. They and customers who knowingly purchase illicit cigarettes should also be aware that they may be indirectly funding INLA terrorism and criminality which brings misery and harm to local communities, all for their own selfish gains. I would like to thank our partners in HMRC for their assistance with this operation.”
DI McClure added: “We are committed to bringing those involved in the criminality associated with paramilitarism before the courts and we know that the communities most affected by these parasites support our ongoing efforts. I would appeal for anyone with information regarding criminality by paramilitary organisations to contact police on 101. Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.”
• A 56 year old male was also arrested yesterday by HMRC for ‘Fraudulent Evasion of Duty Chargeable On Goods’ in respect of 19,800 illegal cigarettes seized from one of the shops in the Galliagh area of Londonderry. He has subsequently been released pending report to the Public Prosecution Service.
Steve Tracey, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Working together in partnership with other enforcement colleagues we can target the criminal gangs who are stealing from the taxpayer, robbing public services and undermining legitimate, honest traders.”