Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 1 - 19)




  1. Mr White, good afternoon and thank you for coming. We understand that your boss is not well.
  (Mr White) He is I think suffering somewhat from a little bit of exhaustion.

  2. I am not surprised. Please give him our best wishes and say that we quite understand that he has not been able to make it today.
  (Mr White) I will indeed.

  3. Can I start off with the baseline as it were and that is the paramilitaries' requirement for money. How much do they need, the various groups, in order to operate, and how much, in so far as you know, do they actually have? I realise this is not an exact science but I think you will have a pretty fair idea.
  (Mr White) I think I can echo your sentiments. It is not an exact science by any means. Over the years we have sought to monitor the amounts of money that each of the organisations has a requirement for. Each organisation in itself is differently structured and therefore its means of raising money and spending money are separate entities in their own right. The main organisation is the Provisional IRA. The figure there we estimate at this moment in time is that it has a capacity to raise between five and eight million pounds a year for funding its needs, but by no means is it expending five to eight million pounds a year. The running costs of the organisation in a sense in terms of wages only amount to about a quarter of a million pounds. Obviously you could ask the question, what happens to the remaining money? Behind the actual expenditure, which really only goes to those at brigade level and GHQ level, your average brigade officer gets something in the region of £250 to £450 a month.

  4. Have the operating costs gone significantly down since the release of the prisoners who were presumably all being financially supported?
  (Mr White) Yes. That aspect has disappeared to some degree in terms of the money that would have gone towards some of the prisoners and prisoners' families. Like all organisations, it has actually cost cut in that it no longer pays money to volunteers because it deems them not to be on active service, so they do not get the handouts that they would have got in the past. Behind the infrastructure of the organisation there are substantial costs in the sense that the organisation itself runs a fair number of motor vehicles which are purchased for the more important members and it invests fairly heavily in the properties that it has in the form of the pubs and the clubs. There is an outgoing in relation to those activities. In that sense each brigade has a capacity to be somewhat self-financing, having something in the region of £30,000 as a sort of float upon which they can call to support the activity that they may be engaged in. An organisation such as RIRA, being much smaller, has estimated running costs in the region of £350,000 and by and large, not being structured as the PIRA is structured, it raises its money more or less as it requires it from fuel smuggling, from cigarette smuggling and such things of that nature. CIRA, being a smaller organisation than that, is £25,000 to £30,000.

  5. The Real IRA get most of their income from smuggling fuel and tobacco?
  (Mr White) By and large that is the organisational structure. You will recall in recent weeks that a seizure was made at Warrenpoint where there was something in the region of 42.6 million cigarettes recovered; that was the largest UK seizure ever. There were also 12 million seized in North Yorkshire. They import what is called raw spirit from the Eastern Bloc countries. This gets itself reconstituted as vodka and then gets itself sold on the market. There were two bottling plants. The one in Pennistern in Yorkshire which had a capacity of 18,000 litres, was closed down, as was the one in Coalisland in the Washing Bay area, which had a capacity of about 26,200 litres.

  6. And we are still talking just about the Real IRA?
  (Mr White) Just about the Real IRA. Obviously the seizure there of industrial alcohol being made in Portadown indicates again the nature by which they fund themselves. From all that activity we reckon they have a potential profit of about five million pounds. Again, with regard to expenditure against income there is a substantial difference in favour of the profit. On the INLA, we would say that that is an organisation with financial difficulties at the moment. It is requiring about £25,000 to £30,000 a year to basically fund itself, and again they indulge themselves in something of the cigarette smuggling and activity relative to the drugs aspect, but again resorting most likely to robberies in their case to raise what funds they require. They are however in financial difficulties from our intelligence picture. On the other side of the house, the UDA, the UFF, their need for financing would be in the region of £250,000 a year, but again being totally different in terms of its financial structure. A lot of that money is actually raised in each of the brigade areas and, peculiar from the other organisations, the UDA levies a subscription on its own membership for being members of the organisation, so they have to contribute from the point of view of being a member.

  7. How much do they have to contribute?
  (Mr White) It is a small sum. It is more of a token issue as such but it covers their local costs as they would see it. It is a hangover from their heyday when there were very substantial numbers within the organisation. Again they would generate a lot of the money from drug dealing, again very much depending on the attitude of the local brigadier as to how that drug dealing gets itself carried through, and counterfeit goods and such like form a good bit of their money. The UVF's running costs, the last organisation, would be again about a quarter of a million pounds.

  8. You mentioned money from drugs only in the context of INLA and the UDA. Have I got that right?
  (Mr White) The aspect of drugs would probably be much more apparent in terms of the Loyalist organisations, the LVF, the UDA, the UFF, INLA and to a degree RIRA. PIRA is still very much presenting itself as a defender of its community. This creates a bit of a dichotomy if it lets its members deal in drugs. You will recall that there is the organisation known as DAAD, Direct Action Against Drugs, which is a PIRA group. It is another nom de guerre as it were that the PIRA would use in dealing with drug dealers, but it has been responsible for around 14-odd deaths in the Province of people that were deemed to be dealing in drugs. It has set its face by and large against the drug aspect and more or less confines its activities to the more lucrative fuel smuggling and counterfeit goods aspects.

  9. What you are saying is that the major organisations have got substantial reserves.
  (Mr White) Indeed.

  10. Who keeps that?
  (Mr White) There is not what you would call a financial infrastructure such as one would expect to find in any large organisation. The best way I can describe it is if you are familiar with the Hawalla system, the underground banking system where money in a sense does not rest in any financial institution such as a bank or building society under a recognised title which is "Provisional IRA" or whatever. The money that they raise is actually given to people who are in business, if you were a business individual with Republican sympathies, anything up to a quarter or half a million pounds, depending obviously on the size of your business, could be lodged with you with the view that as and when required it can be drawn down. There is no money sitting accredited to personnel who are recognised members of the Provisional IRA. The money is outsourced, it is hidden in building societies, it can be hidden as it were in investment bonds, it can be in insurance bonds, and it can be hidden in company accounts so that simply by raising a false invoice I could receive from you £100,000 if I needed it tomorrow, and the false invoice within the company accounts would basically be the means of doing that. They have developed that over 20 or 30 years by using the same people by and large within the financial infrastructure. In that sense it defeats a lot of the efforts that we can make at this moment in time as traditionally we have gone looking where one would expect money to be and that is within banking institutions, building societies and elsewhere.

  11. Do you know who these people are who are receiving money on behalf of the paramilitaries?
  (Mr White) We have indications from intelligence who some of those people are but by no means is it complete.

  12. If you have the evidence do you have sufficient legal means to relieve them of it?
  (Mr White) A good few are not within the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland and we are dependent on the reaction of other jurisdictions, namely the Southern government and through CAB, to try and get at these people. If it is hidden and hidden fairly well within company accounts, as you will appreciate, it is extremely difficult to identify as money being held on behalf of a paramilitary grouping.

  13. Have you ever succeeded in persuading the Garda, the organ of the Government of the Republic, to take action against one of these bankers?
  (Mr White) We have in that our best success recently has been against the bureaux de changes. We have a multimillion pound investigation ongoing with the Garda into several bureaux de changes where money has been laundered through those accounts. We are very hopeful in respect of major prosecutions in those areas.

  14. That is a slightly different matter, is it not, money in and out, changing currencies, from people who are as it were acting as bankers, the businessmen you were talking about?
  (Mr White) Through the bureaux de changes you can act very successfully as a banker in the sense that you have fairly large sums of money always on deposit in different accounts and this is where they have succeeded in putting substantial sums of money away. In that sense we have been able to foreclose on that * * *

  15. You have not mentioned fund raising overseas.
  (Mr White) Fund raising overseas, whilst it was at one stage a fairly lucrative means of the organisation getting their money, due to the pressures of the US Treasury Department, with whom we work fairly closely, that by and large has been tidied up in terms of the accounts being maintained by friends of PIRA. The RIRA and other smaller organisations have not got the financial foothold in the USA that PIRA has had. That is not to say that there is not a substantial sum of money which comes directly in suitcases or in people's pockets back into Ireland and into accounts that way, but by and large the US authorities, with all credit to them, are fairly vigilant in that area and keep us well informed of the checks that they make on the various accounts there, although it is by no means a watertight situation.

The Reverend Martin Smyth

  16. I want to take you back to the comments about PIRA and the drug problem. There are those who perceive that Direct Action Against Drugs developed for two reasons: one, to show themselves whiter than white, but more particularly to actually deal with those who had hitherto been providing funds for them through the use of drugs and when the so-called peace came they were holding more back. Particularly that was found in Dublin and led to several murders there. How far are you convinced that PIRA are as clean as the impression I got from your earlier response about being involved in drugs?
  (Mr White) I would not wish to give the impression that they were by any means clean. What you had happening with PIRA, not wishing directly through members to dirty their hands,—and you will recall that Provisional Sinn Fein member in Derry who did get himself too close to the scene and the embarrassment that that caused—they have either levied charges on drug dealers or alternatively have franchised areas in which drug dealing is allowed to take place, thus never handling the drugs themselves but regulating the market in a sense where that has taken place. Yes, you are quite right: there has been punishment of those who have sought to infringe on that market or who have refused to play ball in terms of making sums of money available to those within PIRA. I was speaking in terms of the organisation's philosophy as a whole. By no means do the activities of each member hold true to the organisation's philosophy.

  17. I appreciate the problem of identifying some of this clearly when the Colombian business actually broke and it was disowned as being part of Sinn Fein.
  (Mr White) Yes.

  18. My response was that they are acting as a government-in-waiting and they disown any of their secret service working when they are caught. Is there any link in trade in drugs to help finance issues and the providing of intelligence and training in using some of those devastating bombs for urban terrorism? That has been one of the things that has come through at different times from some of our friends in the States.
  (Mr White) Is this on the FARC subject?

  19. Yes.
  (Mr White) No. The picture we have on the intelligence side in relation to FARC would be very much focussed on the exchange of bomb-making technology. FARC have developed and have been using very substantial numbers in excess of 10,000-odd of their mortar-type devices, the "barrack buster" being the local name given to those devices. The sophistication of their firing mechanisms has not taken them beyond the point of their operational need in that they take over and hold the area in which they are operating and then seek to ignite these devices with a fairly crude detonation system. FARC had a desire to take its activities into the more urban areas of Colombia where the legitimate government was in strength and there was this desire for an upgrading of the devices. PIRA had that technology in that it had developed the initiation devices that allowed such items to be placed and then remotely fired. That was an exchange part. The other part of FARC that the PIRA were interested in was in the development of air bombs as they call them. The contents of those are simply a mixture of petrol with what you would call common-or-garden glue. The two things combined can create a very significant firebomb. You will appreciate that that means you do not need explosives of any nature and if you can fire that sort of device into any enclosed scene such as police stations or military establishments, that is a tremendously effective tool. All the focus that was going on and we still believe is going on in that area is in this development of the technology and the exchange of information in that respect, not at all focussed from anything we have at this moment that would point us in any way towards the drugs issues.

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