Examination of Witness (Questions 60 -
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
60. That is the bit that surprised me because,
indeed, the evidence there suggests that this might be an area,
along with counterfeiting money, where Loyalist paramilitaries
might be more engaged than Republican paramilitaries. I had not
gauged that the Loyalist paramilitaries were getting that sort
of money through this, or indeed through any source of activity.
If they are getting millions through counterfeiting, then their
resources are significantly higher than the general population
believe they are.
(Mr White) I would say this to the Committee: do not
take it that this is money which appears and is handed over to
the organisation. Vast sums of money haemorrhage themselves in
the process from the criminal activity through to the organisation
getting its bits and pieces.
61. 4x4s and horse boxes?
(Mr White) Exactly. It is a large amount of money
and, again, it varies according to the organisation. Certainly
on the Loyalist side, sticky fingers hold on to a fair amount
of that. It is also in partnership, quite often, with a criminal
group and it is not within the paramilitary structure so there
is an immediate split in terms of the proceeds there as well.
It is not a direct flow quite often and a good chunk is used to
fund the individuals themselves. A good deal of that has been
brought about since the arrival of the cease-fire in that those
who came out of prison who had engaged themselves and gone to
prison and served time for 10, 15 or 20 years came back to terraced
houses, and they looked around and saw those who had encouraged
them to get themselves engaged in paramilitary activities and
the lifestyle they seemed to be starting to live, so some of them
now are entirely in this business to create a pension fund for
themselves. We are now looking at people who are purchasing property
in the South of Ireland and elsewhere overseas as an investment
and the only way that they are funding this investment is by drawing
down on various criminal enterprises where they can get into partnership
with people. There is no tax to be paid on this, this is pure
profitability, and the money comes fairly quickly. You cannot
go down and lodge it in your mother's bank account but you can
invest it in property and you can buy into a business. That is
where the money is going and that is where the encouragement is
coming for this. But counterfeit goods is such a lucrative business
right across the UK.
62. I assume it is to a fairly high standard?
(Mr White) Exactly. When we bring in the people in
relation to designer clothing they have substantive difficulties
themselves in determining whether the Manchester United shirt
that is on sale at the market is actually a legitimate brand productit
is not all Levi jeansand the same thing with the Playstations
and videos. If you want the latest Hollywood released film you
do not go to the Virgin outlet store, you go to a market stall
and within a very short period of time by the use of the Internet
and everything else those films are pirated, downloaded and reproduced,
perhaps not to the quality that you would wish but if you are
only paying a third of the price you are quite happy to take those.
The same thing with Playstations. There was a market demand for
these things over Christmas for Playstation II and if you wanted
the product and could not get it in the shop, quite often you
could find it in the market. It is supply and demand that these
people live off the back of. The same thing with perfumes and
things of that nature with counterfeit money. You are dealing
now with high-quality printing machinery being available in relation
to the production of bank notes.
63. I notice a laser jet was being suggested.
(Mr White) There is such a freeing up in relation
to that. Counterfeit goods to the value of over £650,000
were seized from stall holders at Nutts Corner alone. That is
3,000 videos, 11,000 Playstation games, 10,000 music CDs, and
106 pairs of designer sunglasses, would you believe.
64. Is there anything legitimate sold at Nutts
(Mr White) The bread products and cakes are about
the only things but, as you appreciate yourself, that is a small
market in terms of the acreage that it covers and the through-flow
of people will not be vast in our terms but that is flowing from
one small market alone.
65. This is a product that can be fairly easily
partnered between Loyalists and Republicans. Do you find much
(Mr White) I think the simple answer is yes. Politics
has no place in business and they have the same philosophy. I
think our best example there is the shipment of cigarettes that
Customs seized based on police information at the docks at Warrenpoint
which in actual fact had been bank-rolled substantively by the
Loyalists in terms that they had purchased their £50,000
worth of illegal cigarettes through their IRA colleagues, so partnerships
can spring up in the strangest of places where profit is the only
66. I suppose the cease-fire would encourage
(Mr White) I would think so and in a way the criminal
has always been one of our best entrepreneurs and if there is
a market at all they will find it. They will not let politics
fudge their capacity to get involved. Cigarettes is another indicator
where you do not limit yourself to the importation of cigarettes
simply to feed one side of the political divide or the other.
The feeling is if you can strike a partnership, strike that deal
and get on with it. The same thing with smuggling fuel, the deals
are done there.
67. In terms of counterfeit currency there were
some figures that were given to us in terms of £206,000 in
2001 for the total value of dead currency. Presumably, all you
can do is guess at how much is floating around there. Can you
give us any handle on that?
(Mr White) All I would say is that the figure for
the year has gone from 206 to 332 and the money seized from retail
outlets in live currency has gone up from £36,000 to £70,000
for the year ending now, so you have a total of £402,000.
Over and above, shall we say, the sterling currency, you have
counterfeit monies in the form of foreign currency. Certainly
US dollars have featured and we do business, as it were, with
the US Treasury Department and their investigators as regards
the dollar counterfeitcy that goes on in the Province and counterfeitcy
in relation to other currencies as well. No doubt the euro will
come in. I really could not put a guesstimate on how much money
is in circulation. I can only encourage you to have a good look
at the bank notes that are recovered. It would certainly defy
my ability to distinguish between the counterfeit and the note
itself, they are of such quality.
68. Chairman, it might be worth us looking at
the quality of some of these counterfeit products.
(Mr White) There is an on-going need to try and educate
the business community and we are engaged in this with the banks
to try and make them more proactive in this area, and as part
of the crime prevention area we engage in this focusing, again,
on the euro as being the note of interest at this moment in time.
It is quite easy for you to be shown the counterfeit products
and the quality that is there.
The Rev Martin Smyth
69. I was just wondering about the counterfeiter
with one million blank tapes which suggested that he might have
been a musician. Did he sing? Were there any consequences of finding
that out? Was anybody brought before the courts or has it just
been one of those facts of record?
(Mr White) We believe from the investigations we have
done that we have closed down one of the production outlets that
was using those blank disks. There are others in place that we
have not yet discovered. Some of them lie outwith our jurisdiction,
as you will appreciate, and we have to work with the Garda in
70. On the question of the Organised Crime Task
Force, was there any investigation done where the tapes went and
what money he made from it, and whether it was known if it was
being used for counterfeiting and whether he was charged?
(Mr White) I cannot answer the question whether the
importer was charged in that respect, but certainly there are
on-going investigations in relation to this. The Organised Crime
Task Force itself is more of a strategic body and not one with
an investigative remit as such, that befalls ourselves but, as
you will appreciate, amongst all the other issues that have to
be investigated this is an area that quite often can be overlooked
simply because the nature of the criminality here when offset
against the more violent crimes that we are investigating is a
resource issue, and I do not hide that from the Committee at all.
Rev Martin Smyth: I appreciate that you do not
hide it, and we understand the work that the force has been doing.
Going back to your earlier response to me, what is happening impacts
on the country at large and it has an impact also on Scotland
and England and it is a question that needs to be tackled.
71. Most people in thinking about the way that
paramilitaries raise their money, especially from Britain, would
probably not think of the sophisticated techniques that we have
been discussing, they would think of someone with a gun involved
in armed robbery, which itself which might have sophisticated
techniques. How important still is armed robbery as a means by
which paramilitaries will raise funds? Has the commitment to using
that as an avenue changed over time as new techniques have come
(Mr White) Armed robbery in itself as a criminal act
has increased now. Armed robberies which are focused on acquisition
of cash, in other words post offices and banks, do not tend to
produce what you call big sums of money, you may get £8,000
or £9,000 out of a post office, but most of those robberies
are conducted by the criminal fraternity in its own right. If
you have a paramilitary structure and you are using your people
in that sense, you are exposing them to arrest. If they are using
firearms that were heretofore used as part of the on-going paramilitary
scene, forensically again you can create a link back to your organisation
which might be to your detriment in terms of how you are viewed
as being on cease-fire or otherwise, and also it can lead to volunteers
being arrested and charged with crimes. So there is a tendency
to avoid the cruder end of pointing a gun in somebody's face in
a post office or bank. It is not the most productive method. The
armed robberies that the paramilitaries would be focused on at
the moment would be in relation to containers of goods. We had
one incident at the dock side where something in the region of
4.2 million cigarettes were taken in an act of piracy because
the container was off-loaded off a ship that was ready for sailing.
That in itself would produce something in the region of £1
million/£1.5 million profit. So white goods and shipments
of that nature, spirits, alcohol, a bonded delivery en route somewhere,
are much more productive in the form of the armed robbery than
the traditional bank or post office we would otherwise think of.
It minimises also the risk to their personnel and it does not
embarrass them as much in relation when the argument arises as
to whether they are on cease-fire or not. That is where the focus
is, by and large, in the armed robberies. Most armed robberies
of post offices, banks and building societies would still be the
provenance of the ordinary criminal as such.
72. Have you a way of assessing what has happened
so far as armed robbery that is associated with paramilitary groups
is concerned? You have described certain areas like cigarette
robbery which they are involved in, but maybe there is still some
residual involvement amongst some of the smaller paramilitary
organisations that might not have the sophistication. Then, of
course, there is the difficult area of mixed groups, groups that
have a history of being paramilitary organisations but essentially
now are just operating as rather footloose criminal bodies, getting
it for themselves rather than what was at one time for the cause.
Is there a way of assessing any of this?
(Mr White) Certainly there are factors about each
incident and obviously the intelligence flows we have give indicators
as regards it. You have to be careful because sometimes a paramilitary
group's name can be thrown around in the process of the crime
simply, again, to intimidate the people who have been robbed.
In other words, by throwing in the name of the organisation, you
can be fairly well assured that you will create that element of
fear amongst those relieved of their monies. We are reasonably
well able through intelligence flows to indicate which jobs are
done by the paramilitaries. The modus operandi and things
of that nature sometimes give us a bit of a steer as well. You
are quite right, the lesser organised groups such as the INLA,
CIRA and RIRA still resort to looking for substantive sums of
money. This way they tend to focus in on money that is in transit
in substantive amountsthe Post Office doing a delivery
run around several post officesrather than the criminal
act of breaking into a post office and getting behind the bandit
screen and getting some money that way. They do not rule it out
entirely and it is still there within their repertoire, but as
an organisational pursuit, which is the way I was answering the
question, it is not viewed as a lucrative form of money raising.
73. It is sometimes argued that civil disorder
gives a greater opportunity for armed robbery to take place (it
might again be criminal armed robbery) and that moves into those
areas. We now have a great deal of civil disorder in Belfast.
Is that leading to any increase in armed robberies of Securicor
and others? Are you able to do anything?
(Mr White) The figures for armed robbery are up but
that can be anything from the use of a broken bottle or a hammer
or anything else to help them carry out the crime. I would not
link it in any way to the civil disturbance activities that have
been in the north of the city. It has not increased that activity
as such. The simple movement of people in the small hours facilitates
opportunist groups of young people to engage in the robbery of
somebody going to an ATM machine to draw money or someone who
is on the way home from some social venue. You have a broad spread
of that and then you have the off-licences which are always an
area for visitation by youngsters for drink or cigarettes, and
they may go in armed with a knife or otherwise. There is a fair
range of activity contained within the phrase "armed robbery"
as such and we do monitor all activity of that nature simply looking
for the paramilitary involvement.
74. I wonder if I could ask a couple of sensitive
questions to try to get a feeling on where we are now as opposed
to where we may have been pre the Good Friday Agreement. Pre the
Good Friday Agreement there must have been times when your attempts
to bring criminals and those who were engaged in all the activities
which you have talked about to book because of the security situation.
Maybe because of the security service input, you at times had
to hold back because the security services were chasing a bigger
fish or bigger crime or something got in the way of your best
attempts to bring people to justice. Post the Good Friday Agreement,
is it easier now or harder? Is it easier because you are focused
down on less groups because of the cease-fire or is it harder
because of the political situation where you do not want to be
seen to be going in heavy handed? Has it changed at all, post
cease-fire, your attempts to bring these people to justice?
(Mr White) I do not subscribe to your argument in
the first place that there were inhibitors there. Obviously there
may have been arrests from a pure crime side that we would have
chosen or desired to do where because of covert activity in that
particular area where those people resided, you might find were
put back by 24 or 48 hours, but nothing ever ruled out the capacity
to arrest those people. What we have found since the cease-fire
is more or less the mushrooming of the capacity of the criminal
fraternity to be engaged in crime because pre ceasefire with the
high volume of patrolling that was being done, plus the activities
of paramilitaries themselves in monitoring their own areas, that
had a suppressing effect on the criminals as such, and they did
not have free movement or free reign in that sense, but post ceasefire
with the dramatic reduction of military patrols, the lack of VEPs
and everything else, as we move towards normalisation, it really
did free up the movement of people themselves, which freed up
the movement of criminals, which means that criminals started
to operate outside their own natural areas. The opportunities
were there for them to engage in activities. It also freed up,
for a large part, a lot of the paramilitaries themselves who had
time on their hands, and who were not constrained by the organisations
to the same extent as before, and who recognised that there was
another side to this and that there was this opportunity to raise
finance, and not finance entirely for the organisation. So those
factors all combined since the cease-fire have given a fair good
boost to the whole infrastructure of criminality in the Province,
and I am content that that aspect has been recognised by the Government
through the creation of the Organised Crime Task Force and the
very interest that this Committee is taking in the whole position.
What is not inhibited is the following of the criminals. All that
has inhibited me there is a shortfall in terms of detectives and
officers with the capacity to take those investigations forward.
75. Equally sensitive, we have spoken a lot
this afternoon about the attitude of mind and the culture of sticky
fingers, and I think there was an inference, even if it was not
said, that part of the community talk about victimless crime.
But in relation to a dodgy CD, a dodgy video, a gaming machine
that is not licensed, in this context there is no such thing if
the money is getting through to the paramilitaries. Without wishing
to be disrespectful, and there is none intended, what we always
find is that there is an opportunity for collusion between those
that enforce and those that carry out crime. What would your view
be over the period of the last 20 years of the opportunities for
collusion between individual RUC officers and those carrying out
this so-called "soft" crime in terms of turning a blind
eye to those dodgy video sales?
(Mr White) I cannot accept that there has been any
substantive number of officers in any shape or form. With the
intelligence systems that we have, where there have been bad apples
among usand there have beenwe have rooted them out,
but most of them have been people who have been misguided in terms
of their associations with the paramilitary groups and the activities
they were primarily engaged in. That is not to say we do not have
bad apples as police officers, but I am reasonably comfortable
with the intelligence information system we have that we will
find those people if they are so engaged. It is a small community
and hiding that activity is impossible and it will out itself
at some stage, and now we have the Ombudsman Office and everything
else in place, which will be taking those investigations forward,
its an issue. It is something that the organisation itself is
conscious of and we are monitoring, but as for a substantive number
of officers over the yearsand I have been at that end of
it now for 30-odd yearsI cannot think of any big numbers
of people that have been involved and nor have there been any
claims that there have been. We certainly will be very conscious
of that in future.
76. Finally, do you think that it becomes increasingly
more difficult when you start looking at these new criminal activities
such as counterfeiting where it is not about collusion any more,
it is about just not seeing it and therefore it is more difficult
to detect an officer in the community "not seeing" a
video sold because it is just not reported?
(Mr White) You can get inertia in any organisation,
but the way round that is to try to keep the organisation as a
whole focused on the broad areas of criminality that are occurring.
Communication is a major issue for us. We are involving the uniformed
branch very much in investigating organised crime and they are
seeing the benefits. In fact, some of the areas are led by uniformed
side so they see the returnsI am thinking again of counterfeit
goods in the markets. The real success of that is that the quality
of police officer we get and the maintenance and integrity of
policing standards we work to will not shift, no matter what happens.
Mr Barnes: I appreciate that this has been a
very long and fruitful session and this is a question where it
might be possible to supply something in writing in that area,
but what we have been doing essentially is concentrating upon
the raising of paramilitary monies, the techniques used in connection
with it, and how some of the monies may be recycled. At the start
there was some discussion about where some of it went. Most paramilitary
groups have got associated political groups and there must be
a question of money that is raised for paramilitary organisations
finding itself into the political wings of their organisation
for electoral and other purposes. Is there anything that you could
provide to us in those type of areas, maybe not so much now but
at some time in the future?
77. Probably vice versa.
(Mr White) I am trying to think. When you look across
the spectrum of paramilitary groups, short of PIRA, the others
such as RIRAdo not have any political infrastructure, and
they are divorced in a sense from the representatives that are
there. CIRA is in the same fashion. There is the 32 county group
but they are not a political force as such. The UDA has entirely
lost its UDP representation although there are moves afoot to
try and reinvigorate that aspect of it. The UVF represented by
PUP's spokespeople are only two in number and I suppose they require
some financing. INLA does not have any political arm as such.
So really you are drawn back again to the PIRA / SF side of things
as being the lead agency there. They have sharpened their profile
immensely both within and without the Province, certainly focused
on America, and really do not depend on sums of money coming at
them from the illegal activities or the activities of the PIRA
themselves. I think it would be safe to sayand the politicians
that are in the room can correct methat the PSF is probably
one of the richest political groups within Ireland.
78. Within the world.
(Mr White) And it does not need supplementary handouts
from the PIRA side. I think that bridge has been crossed by them.
In the early days it may have been there, and no doubt was there,
but they like to move one step ahead of scrutiny themselves, and
in that sense I think there is enough money in the coffers from
the US which comes legitimately to them to certainly keep them
well covered. As to the others, I have no doubt there is some
degree of haemorrhaging but whether or not it is a worthwhile
pursuit to go after them and how we would go after them bearing
in mind that they are legitimate political groupings and the law
does not allow me any leeway in chasing the funds of political
groups that are recognised in that sense, I am not sure.
Mr Barnes: I appreciate the Chairman's point,
it might move the other way in certain circumstances.
79. Mr White, this has been a very useful and
productive session. I am much obliged to you for all you have
told us. You have been very frank with us, too. We will send you
a transcript of what you have said to us and if you would like
to give us an indication of anything that you would not wish to
see published, we will of course consider that very sympathetically
(Mr White) Will I be at liberty to rephrase some of
the issues in the sense that it may be in that transcript, if
it were your desire to publish?
Mr Beggs: For accuracy, yes.