Drug lords join with dissidents in extortion bids

DRUG bosses are joining up with dissident republicans to extort cash from rival drug gangs, it has emerged.

Gardaí said crime chiefs are adopting this tactic to lower the risks to themselves, in both financial and criminal terms.

Gardaí said this trend is part of a noticeable rise in the use of extortion by dissidents in the last year, many of whom are demanding cash from business people.

However, the crimes are difficult to investigate as most of the business people targeted are not reporting to gardaí, most likely out of fear. “We’ve seen a lot of serious criminals in the drugs trade deciding it’s a lot easier to allow someone else import the drugs and then demand €100,000 from them,” said a Garda source.

The risks of importing and distributing drugs are a lot higher than extortion money from other criminals, who are not going to make a complaint to the gardaí. As well as the financial outlay in paying for the drugs, the bosses run a serious financial loss if the shipments are intercepted by customs or gardaí. There is also the risk of criminal prosecution for gang members and intelligence on the gang boss being gathered by investigating gardaí.

“A lot of the bigger gangs are hooking up with former or current dissidents,” said the garda.

“They’re saying ‘you have the muscle and the name’, so they’re getting heavies from Belfast to come down and put the squeeze on the other gang to pay up.”

Gardaí say the dissidents coming down from the North are not necessarily the same individuals involved in terrorist campaigns there, and may be on the periphery of dissident groups, such as the Continuity IRA, the Real IRA and the INLA.

Gardaí have noticed a general rise in extortion in the last year, with business people suffering. “There have been more extortion demands. It’s the favourite at the moment,” said the garda. He said the funds were typically both for the “cause” and personal gain.

A report at the weekend said the Continuity IRA had threatened to knee-cap a businessman in Dublin’s south inner city unless he handed over €20,000.

However, Garda sources spoken to yesterday were not in a position to confirm whether the incident occurred. One source said: “These investigations are particularly difficult to advance. They are often more an intelligence investigation. No one is coming into a Garda station and making a statement of complaint.”

Gardaí stress these attacks are not necessarily the work of a specific dissident organisation and are often the work of individual dissidents, sometimes working with local criminals.

Gardaí say the demarcation line between the dissident groups was “muddled”, with people from the different groups coming together for whatever purpose. This was seen recently in the number of people from the south involved in the riots in Ardoyne, north Belfast.


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