Examination of Witnesses (Questions 82
WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY 2002
CBE, QPM, DETECTIVE SUPERINTENDENT
A, DETECTIVE CONSTABLE
B AND DETECTIVE
82. Good afternoon, Mr Veness and gentlemen.
We have met before in a different context.
(Mr Veness) Indeed.
83. Thank you very much for coming to give us
evidence. Many of the questions will be based on the ACPO submission
which I have no doubt you have seen.
(Mr Veness) Yes indeed.
84. Perhaps I should just explain that the evidence
will be taken on the record and, before anything else happens
to it, you will be asked to check it for accuracy and to indicate
if there are any bits which you feel are sensitive and should
not be published and in as much as the Committee can it will help
over this because we are aware that we are treading in some very
delicate areas here and there in the course of this inquiry. We
had Assistant Chief Constable White in last week from the Northern
Ireland Police Service and he was very frank and forthcoming and
it was hugely helpful. If you feel able to do the same, given
that, we will respect police confidences. Can we start by trying
to measure the extent of paramilitary activity in Great Britain
as opposed to Northern Ireland? How much of the income do you
reckon is raised in Great Britain?
(Mr Veness) First of all thank you very much for your
words of introduction on behalf of my colleagues and I. We will
certainly seek to be as frank as we conceivably can be. I welcome
in particular the helpful suggestion of being able to touch upon
matters when they are produced in written form, if only because
from the point of view of Great Britain as opposed to Northern
Ireland a significant amount of these developments are relatively
recent and happily also sub judice, so there are particular
sensitivities from that perspective. To your question, Chairman,
I think there is a marked distinction between the activities of
the Provisional IRA and the Real IRA, particularly in respect
of their use, for example, of smuggling and excise evasion in
respect of hydrocarbon, alcohol and other activities. Our broad
assumption in respect of the Real IRA, and certainly our activities
in recent months underline this, is that maybe as much as 80 per
cent of their activity is linked with common criminality as opposed
to other forms of fund raising. In that regard the important point,
certainly as seen from Great Britain, is that in recent months,
particularly in the last 15-18 months, where we have perceived
the role of Great Britain as effectively a land bridge, especially
in respect of excise evasion, movement of tobacco (both hand rolling
tobacco and cigarettes), alcohol and indeed hydrocarbon, the position
has changed and in our assessment Great Britain is now a market
place and a processing centre, particularly in respect of diesel
washing. That primarily relates to the activities of the Real
IRA as opposed to the Provisional IRA. In respect of the overall
economic structure of the Provisional IRA, I sense that you have
had a much more expert view of that from our colleagues in the
Police Service of Northern Ireland and I would not presume to
add to that.
85. And just so that we get both sides of the
story, is there any significant amount of fund raising done by
any of the Loyalist paramilitaries in Great Britain?
(Mr Veness) It is much more diffuse and much harder
to read, but it is certainly at the opposite end of the spectrum.
In our judgement the problem that is confronted here in Great
Britain in economic support for the paramilitaries would be RIRA
first, then PIRA and in the third position would be the Loyalist
86. And you say that 80 per cent of Real IRA
funds are raised here through criminality. Does that apply to
the Loyalists or not as much?
(Mr Veness) Again the Police Service of Northern Ireland
would have a more expert perspective than mine. In our view the
linkage that we are seeing, particularly recently, in the overlap
between common criminality and the activities of the Real IRA
is truly exceptional. If only as seen from a policeman's point
of view, it is operational terrorism at a low ebb in terms of
their security. They are running risks that certainly PIRA would
not have run on any of their mainland operations of which we have
had experience in recent years. Contrast their attempted attacks
here in the mid-1990s, the attacks on the electricity substations
which were thwarted in that same summer of 1996, and the series
of lorry bombs. There we saw a very high level of operational
security of PIRA operating on the mainland because of all the
difficulties that that operating context presents to them. We
are seeing the opposite end of activityrecklessnessin
respect of criminality by RIRA in recent times.
87. Perhaps provoked by some form of desperation?
(Mr Veness) It operates to their advantage. It is
not quite as foolish as it seems because if one is engaged in
this degree of criminality the smokescreen that is presented by
spending nine-tenths of your time engaged in excise evasion and
smuggling it is also something that may deflect the attention
of the authorities. In particular, if this is a multi-agency activity
which falls between various enforcement agencies, there is the
temptation (which must be resisted) to say that this is merely
diesel smuggling and is not terrorism whereas in reality it is
nine-tenths smuggling and one-tenth terrorism. Also seen from
the terrorist point of viewand this is the one that causes
us real concernis that the routes that allow you to smuggle
the constituent elements of your contraband activity allow you
very easily to move home-made explosive, timer power units and
other terrorist paraphernalia from the island of Ireland to Great
Britain. The exploitation of smuggling routes is a real GB concern
and a significant terrorist advantage.
88. How do the paramilitaries transfer money
between the mainland and other overseas sources and Northern Ireland?
(Mr Veness) Our view is that it is relatively unsophisticated
in so far as we have anything like a comprehensive handle on this.
I would not pretend that our knowledge is complete, but it is
similar to systems where money is moved primarily in cash form
or indeed by depositing with one willing acceptor of deposits
and then building up effectively a credit which can then be met
at the other end. In another organised crime context it almost
has the ring of Hawalla banking as opposed to conventional exploitation.
The amounts of money that have been needed both to sustain PIRA
campaigns in recent years and certainly RIRA are relatively limited.
I would also add, Chairman, that in RIRA, operating on the mainland
at the moment, their need to move money is relatively limited
because they are making very significant amounts of ready cash
particularly by the exploitation of diesel laundering and it is
not too much of an exaggeration to say that they can pay for their
terrorist activities almost out of the marginal profits of the
other criminality. It serves that third purpose.
89. So they are operating largely on a cash
(Mr Veness) Yes, absolutely.
90. And therefore those who are participating
in the scams keep the money?
(Mr Veness) Yes.
91. In a sock under the bed sort of thing?
(Mr Veness) Yes, and I would think that with RIRA,
comparing the percentage of money that is disciplined, returns
to the control of the organisation as opposed to leaks for personal
aggrandisement, the leakage is much more significant than it would
have been with PIRA.
92. So they are not as well disciplined?
(Mr Veness) Yes, exactly.
93. What is the relationship between paramilitaries
and organised criminals on the mainland? In particular we have
noted that Loyalist paramilitaries have been contracted by mainland
criminal outfits to carry out armed robberies on the mainland
because of their expertise in this area.
(Mr Veness) It is an emerging picture. The depiction
of the Loyalists as sub-contractors in respect of gangster activity
both in this city and in others is true but in our judgement relatively
limited, if I can reflect upon the cases where that has been significant
in Bermondsey and elsewhere. The development that is a primary
cause for concern, particularly in a contemporary sense, is the
overlap with the scenario that I have depicted of paramilitaries,
particularly RIRA, coming to the mainland of Great Britain because
their ability to exploit the economic market place of the island
of Ireland is now limited, whereas Great Britain and indeed mainland
Europe represent a much more lucrative and exploitative market
place, they themselves being linked into common criminality. *
* * we see a very close linkage between common criminality and
the activities of RIRA.
94. When you talk about these gangs on the mainland,
are there occasions when they do not know that they are assisting
terrorism, would you say?
(Mr Veness) That would be highly dubious. Such is
the activity that it would be surprising if they were surprised.
Why do they do it? There are two extremes. One is that in terms
of criminal extortion and coercion the name of a paramilitary
organisation is a negotiating asset in winning that assistance,
and also because the scale of the activity of, for example, RIRA
on the mainland may not carry with it that degree of opprobrium
that some common criminals would regard as unthinkable to be associated
with. In fact, the economic gain might outweigh the disadvantage
of a bomb or two.
95. What differences, if any, are there in the
pattern of paramilitary fund raising on the mainland as compared
with Northern Ireland, would you say?
(Mr Veness) To say that we will always be a side show
would be too small a description, but the bulk of the activity
is going by definition to occur in the areas where the paramilitaries
can bring to bear extortion, fear, threat and coercion. That will
always be different here on the mainland. Not only that: our capability
for multi-agency activity across the various law enforcement responsibilities
will always be ahead of that which can ever be enjoyed by our
colleagues within the Province, by definition of the operating
96. On the point raised by Mr Bellingham a few
moments ago in respect of the relationship between the paramilitaries
and organised criminals on the mainland, in your opening remarks
you said that you tended to prioritise activity in respect of
RIRA and PIRA and then that carried out by the Loyalist paramilitaries.
Evidence that we have received suggests that in particular Loyalist
paramilitaries have been engaged in or even contracted out to
organised criminal gangs on the mainland to carry out armed robberies.
Could you confirm that that is the case?
(Mr Veness) I am not disputing that for one moment.
There are one or two notorious cases where contract killing and
involvement in serious robbery have occurred. I am not in any
way dissenting from that, sir. All I was suggesting was that seen
from Great Britain our major concern is the bomb that is killing
British citizens and therefore, although that has been episodic,
we must be focused upon that which is causing public harm and
that is at the moment the Real IRA.
97. I asked only because one of our desires
is to try to form a pattern as to how differing groups, irrespective
of whether they are Loyalist or Republican, are accessing their
terrorist funds. I am just trying to get a pattern of who is doing
what and in which particular field.
(Mr Veness) To be fair, it is probably rather more
of what we do not know about Loyalist activity here in Great Britain
in that particular context. That is for the probably understandable
reason that historically Loyalism has not taken the form of terrorism
in Great Britain. There are a great deal of logistic supplies
for financing, etc, etc, but the bombs that kill people in Great
Britain are Republican bombs and thus that has been the proper
prioritisation of GB law enforcement, which is not to say that
we are not active supporters of everything that is done by the
Police Service of Northern Ireland and Garda Sochana.
98. On that point again, when they are building
up these networks with organised crime, do you see that as ongoing
or are they moving around and going into different sorts of activities
or, once they have got somebody on board, is that it, they are
in for the duration?
(Mr Veness) It is possible to see both structure and
opportunism, structure in terms of networks that have been in
place that have supported PIRA activity in Great Britain historically,
and one or two of those figures we suspect are providing assistance
to the evolving RIRA structures. We must be cognisant of that
and we have one or two indicators that that could well be the
position. It is also opportunistic in the sense that a particular
venue may be regarded as critical to a particular activity (and
again sub judice) for example, the farm in West Yorkshire
last autumn, which was in the clutches of a particular individual.
It suited RIRA, we would allege, to take advantage of that opportunity
in order not only to gain a diesel laundering facility of some
magnitude but also, we would suggest, a base for terrorist logistics
in order to move men and material to the mainland. We see a rather
more unhelpfully complex picture of all of those possibilities.
The Reverend Martin Smyth
99. I would appreciate, following through that
answer, that you have noticed that there are contacts because
over the years it has not only been between elements of Republicanism,
but even between elements of Loyalism, that they have consorted
together for particular purposes.
(Mr Veness) Yes.