Loyalist jailed for intimidation and blackmail

Leading loyalist Andre Shoukri has been sentenced to nine years imprisonment after attempting to swindle thousands of pounds from a pub owner.

Leading loyalist Andre Shoukri has been sentenced to nine years imprisonment after attempting to swindle thousands of pounds from a pub owner.

He was found guilty of 18 charges including blackmail, intimidation and acquiring and using criminal property in 2004.

He was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court today after using his reputation in the Ulster Defence Association to force his victim to hand over large sums of cash.

Prosecuting barrister Gordon Kerr said that at one stage: "Mr Shoukri was very aggressive and angry and demanded the money be paid to him then and there - which it was."

He said the notorious paramilitary had become more and more aggressive, constantly making demands and accusing his victim of holding money back.

"She would say she was being directly threatened at this stage."

The racketeering had escalated to the extent that Shoukri was demanding so-called protection money on a weekly basis and asking the owner to hand over cash paid for the lease of the bar.

The judge, Mr Justice Seamus Treacey, said the extortion grew so bad that payments on the lease were threatened and at this stage police were asked to step in with covert surveillance methods which helped trap the defendant and his accomplices.

The victim's partner had a gun held to the back of his head during one bout of intimidation.

Shoukri, from Clare Heights in Belfast, appeared in court today alongside co-accused William Boreland (aged 38) from Sunningdale Gardens in the city.

He was also handed nine years in prison for six charges including blackmail, intimidation and possession of a firearm.

Terry Harbinson (aged 26) from Tyndale Gardens in the city, admitted three identical charges to Boreland and was sentenced to seven years in jail.

Ian Peter Craig(aged 48) a married former policeman from Garland Hill, Belfast, was sentenced to two years custody suspended for three years after pleading guilty to aiding and abetting Shoukri to obtain a money transfer for a mortgage by deception.

The extortion began in June 2004 when Shoukri and Boreland entered the bar and demanded money.

Mr Kerr said: "During the conversation, Shoukri demanded £1,000 (€1,400) per week for the bar to be permitted to stay open... (the owner) was aware of the reputation of the men in the UDA in the area.

"Witness A made it clear such an amount would not be possible and a figure of £200 (€279.93) was ultimately and reluctantly agreed."

The barrister added that the money was paid every Monday to Shoukri, initially by cheque and later in cash.

Betting machines were also emptied in the bar, from which the woman received nothing.

In December 2004 a wedding reception was held at the bar, after which Boreland demanded £500 he had paid for food that day be handed back.

Shoukri also asked for money and later that month Boreland went to the bar and demanded £2,000 from the profits.

Mr Kerr added: "Clearly no such profit had been made and after discussing the matter it was finally agreed they would be paid £1,000, which was paid in cash."

The following January Shoukri and Boreland went to the pub and demanded a further £1,000, claiming the owner had had a good Christmas.

Matters came to a head in May 2005 when payments on the bar lease were threatened and the racketeers were taking what they wanted without paying, including drink carry-outs.

That month Shoukri asked her to cancel a standing order for the rent and demanded it be paid to him instead. When she said she did not have it, he became aggressive.

It was at that stage that her partner was threatened with a gun and told that they were to be put out of the bar.

Everything relating to it, keys, books, and a chequebook, were to be handed over, or else their home would be wrecked.

Another £4,000 was also paid.

Craig was charged for his mortgage adviser role after Shoukri demanded that he be put on the payroll of the pub as restaurant manager and given 13 weeks of payslips showing £450 a week.

Craig's charge was not one of money laundering and Mr Justice Treacey said he was at a low risk of re-offending.

Harbinson was involved in the incident when the gun was pulled.

Mr Justice Treacey said Shoukri and Boreland had previous records for blackmail in 2000.

He added: "Shoukri pleaded a matter of days before the trial was due to commence.

"Where, as here, the victim has been spared little and the administration of justice has gained fractionally, a belated plea without any forensically justifiable reason, whilst it will still attract a discount, must be at the opposite end of the spectrum."

Detective Inspector Mark Brown said: "This case resulted in the dismantling of the North Belfast UDA leadership at that particular time.

"Extortion is a particular problem to the police and we will continue to target organised crime."

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