03/10/2006

Two jailed for eight years for blackmail

Two loyalists who were caught while trying to blackmail a policeman during an undercover PSNI operation, have each been given an eight-year jail sentence.

Robert Lowey, 29, and David Alexander Bennett, 31, both from Fraser Pass in Belfast, admitted blackmailing an undercover police officer, posing as an east Belfast building contractor, while claiming to be members of the UVF.

It is understood that they were arrested shortly after the hand-over of a hold-all containing over £23,000.

Belfast Crown Court Judge Derek Rodgers today commended the PSNI officers for their part in the operation which initially saw the pair trying to blackmail a building contractor for £50,000 per year between August 8 and 18, 2005, to offer protection for three sites.

Judge Rodgers said that it bore all the characteristics of a protection racket and that the crime was committed not out of desperation, but in a “cold, calculating fashion with the aim of getting money.”

Defence lawyers said that the two men were trying to solve their financial problems, brought on by their dependency on drugs.

The lawyers added that both men had been used by more “sinister elements” as their tools on this occasion.

(EF/KMcA)


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