13/06/2003

Paramilitary involvement in crime is 'rife'

A report on organized crime in Northern Ireland has said that paramilitary involvement in local criminal groups is rife, with their activity casting a shadow over the province’s economy.

According to the report, released at the Organised Crime conference in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall today, two-thirds of criminal groups identified have paramilitary involvement, with some 700 people engaged in organised crime networks throughout Northern Ireland.

Alcohol and tobacco fraud, extortion, money laundering, dealing in counterfeit goods, drugs, excise fraud and robbery of transit vans are the key areas that characterise organised crime here. However, it is estimated that smuggling is the most widespread and lucrative activity carried out by paramilitary groups.

The report alleged that Protestant gangs run about 80% of extortion rackets against commercial and business premises, using fear, threats and intimidation in demanding protection money.

Speaking at the conference, Assistant Chief Constable Chris Albiston, deputy commander of the PSNI said: “The exact scale and scope of extortion and racketeering is hard to assess, but it is widespread in Northern Ireland and its impact on businesses, individuals and the community as a whole is significant.”

Ron Goldstock, a New York organized crime expert, said the underground organisations in Northern Ireland had many advantages over "ordinary'' criminals.

He added: “The groups start off with a bad reputation and there's enormous value in having a bad reputation. It's the fear factor.''

Today on the third day of the conference, Home Office Minister Bob Ainsworth, responsible for tackling organised crime, said: “Organised criminality exists for one reason and that is to make money and to make profit and they don’t care about orders.”

He added: "You're organised criminality in Northern Ireland will co-operate with the UK mainland, with Ireland and the European continent.

"We need to do the same unless we can break down the barriers to effective joint working between agencies and between different countries then we're not going to be as effective as we can be."

(MM)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

15 October 2013
Assembly Debates DUP NCA Motion
The Northern Ireland Assembly is debating a DUP motion today addressing the possible impact of not establishing the National Crime Agency (NCA) in Northern Ireland. Dubbed the 'British FBI', the NCA is a national law enforcement agency that operates across the United Kingdom.
05 July 2006
Criminal activity could damage NI's progress
A House of Commons Committee report has today revealed that paramilitary involvement in criminal activity could be extremely damaging to Northern Ireland's political progress.
22 November 2013
Crimestoppers Praised By Justice Minister
Almost £117,000 worth of drugs have been seized, 76 people arrested and charged and 2,400 pieces of actionable information passed to the PSNI between April 2012 and March 2013 as a result of the charity Crimestoppers, according to Justice Minister David Ford.
19 June 2006
NI Criminal Justice System report published
The third annual report of the organised crime task force has today revealed that fuel smuggling and laundering has cost Northern Ireland public almost £250 million over the past year. The report, of the Criminal Justice System Northern Ireland (CJSNI), also revealed that £50 million was seized from criminals.
31 January 2006
Criminal assets of £12m targeted in NI
Around £12 million in criminal assets have been targeted and 28 criminal gangs have been disrupted in Northern Ireland last year by agencies working to thwart organised crime. Security Minister and Chair of the Organised Crime Task Force, Shaun Woodward, made the announcement at the launch of launch of PWC Global Economic Crime Survey in Belfast.