FBI agent 'scouted US border for McKevitt', court hears

FBI agent David Rupert told the Special Criminal Court today that he scouted the US/Mexican border as a possible entry point to the United States for the alleged Real IRA leader Michael Mc Kevitt.

FBI agent David Rupert told the Special Criminal Court today that he scouted the US/Mexican border as a possible entry point to the United States for the alleged Real IRA leader Michael Mc Kevitt.

Mr Rupert said that Mc Kevitt wanted to get into the United States and he went to El Paso in Texas to video US customs arrangements there.

"One of his (Mc Kevitt's) plans was that he was going to Mexico with his wife and kids on holiday and he could come into the US from there," he said.

Mr Rupert also said that he went to El Paso in 1999 or in spring 2000 to investigate the possibility of using Mexico as "an export route" to take arms from the US in containers and send them to Ireland.

He said that at the direction of Mc Kevitt he went to El Paso with a video camera, walked over the bridge and took a video of the customs procedures.

"I did this with the full knowledge of the FBI and the British Security Service (MI5) and was reimbursed with expenses by the FBI and the BSS," he added.

Mr Rupert told Mc Kevitt's counsel Mr Hugh Hartnett SC that he has visited El Paso about half a dozen times over thirty years but he denied that he was involved in cross border smuggling betrween Mexico and the US.

Mr Rupert said he was aware that onions were trucked from Texas to the northern states. But he denied knowing anything about "onions, marijuana and the Mexican border".

"I was not involved in any smuggling along any of the borders. I don't know anything about onions and marijuana," he said.

Mr Rupert admitted that his brother Dale had been arrested in Christmas, 1995 and was jailed for eighteen months for smuggling marijuana.

He also said that his brother had been driving a truck for a close business associate of his when he was arrested.

Mr Rupert also said that the business associate had eventually also been jailed and he assumed it was connected with drugs and the Mexican border.

Speaking about his brother, Mr Rupert said: "I was sorry he got caught. He was 55 years old and should have known better."

Mr Hartnett put it to Mr Rupert that he had told the FBI that "most of his business associates are either dead or in jail" and Mr Rupert replied that he did not recall saying that but he could have.

It was the fourteenth day of the trial of Michael Mc Kevitt (aged 53) , of Beech Park, Blackrock, Dundalk, Co Louth who denies membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann between August 29, 1999 and March 28, 2001. He also denies directing the activities of the same organisation.

Mr Rupert (aged 51), a former trucking company boss and bar owner, has told the court that he infiltrated dissident republican groups for the FBI and the British Security Service (MI5).

The court has heard that Mr Rupert was paid $1.25m (€1.1m) for his work. Mr Rupert has claimed that Mc Kevitt told him he wanted to set up a new dissident republican terrorist group that would carry out attacks in Britain and that he was seeking outside help, including from Saddam Hussein's Iraq, fror the group.

The trial is continuing.

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