Page last updated at 19:25 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009

'IRA men used threats to extort 150,000'

Southwark Crown Court
The jury heard details of the two men's backgrounds

Two former IRA prisoners used threats to extort £150,000 from two businessmen, a court has been told.

The pair accused the businessmen of making millions using the group's name and told them to hand over the money or face "consequences", it was claimed.

Nick Mullen, 60, from Acton, west London, was once alleged to have been a "quartermaster" at an IRA bomb factory.

His co-accused, Ronald McCartney, 55, from Belfast, was convicted of trying to kill three policeman in the 1970s.

Both deny two counts of conspiracy to blackmail between 1 January and 16 April, 2008.

Nom de guerre

The alleged victims cannot be named for legal reasons.

In a threatening phone call, one of the businessmen, who once provided security for Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, was told: "There has been an investigation and we know what you're up to," Southwark Crown Court heard.

He was then told he would be sent a letter giving him instructions on what to do next.

Four days later both men received letters through the post, bearing the Irish Gaelic for the Provisional IRA - Oglaigh na h-Eireann - and signed with the organisation's nom de guerre "PO'Neill".

The letters told the men that in a "prolonged and intensive investigation... it had been established that both of you have used our organisation for personal gain".

The former Sinn Fein supporter was accused of abusing the "position of trust" he once held.

'Silly boy'

The letter said such behaviour was forbidden under the IRA's constitution, that "'the punishment for such abuse is self-explanatory", and that they were sure he would be "aware of the consequences".

Mark Heywood, prosecuting, told jurors the letter accused the businessmen of "extracting something in the region of £6,000,000", although it was possible an "extra 0" had been added in error and the real figure should have read £600,000.

The letter continued: "When you think of the volunteers who are in early graves as a result of this struggle and the volunteers and families who have endured years of imprisonment, you will understand our justifiable anger that the two of you have exploited this situation for your own personal gain."

The figure of £150,000 was then mentioned along with a warning that if they contacted the police "Fort Knox will not be safe for either you or your extended family".

Mr Heywood said one of the businessmen was phoned at home, and when he picked up the receiver all he heard was a voice telling him "Silly boy, silly boy", before the caller hung up.

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