Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 17:30 UK

SAS accused 'ran alcohol sale'

A pay clerk accused of stealing $200,000 (about 100,000) from the SAS said the money was profits from selling alcohol to soldiers serving in Iraq.

Staff Sgt Mark McKay, of Ballykelly, Northern Ireland, made about twice that amount while serving in the Middle East in 2003, a court martial heard.

The 35-year-old was arrested after money was found in plant pots outside his home, Bulford Military Court heard.

He denies stealing the cash from public funds at SAS headquarters, in Hereford.

The court martial has been told $200,000 in US currency, allegedly stolen from the cash office between November 2003 and July 2004, was discovered in plastic bags hidden in the plant pots.

'Not appropriate'

Staff Sgt McKay, who had served in the Middle East between February and May 2003 during the Second Gulf War, was posted to Ballykelly after leaving the SAS.

John Mackenzie, defending, said he had earned the cash legitimately by running the private venture, funded with his own cash.

He provided the drinks, Mr Mackenzie said, to SAS troops and large numbers of soldiers from other coalition countries based at the same compound, which was in a "country bordering Iraq".

Mr McKay ran the service in addition to his official duties as a finance sergeant, which involved accounting for and providing money for SAS operational requirements, Mr Mackenzie added.

'Very, very good'

As part of his job, Mr McKay was one of only a few soldiers allowed to go off the base into the nearby city to buy supplies and draw funds to pay contractors working to set up the camp.

The court heard how Mr McKay realised there was a market among the troops at the base for cigarettes and alcohol.

Mr Mackenzie said his client would buy cases of beer for about 10 and then sell them on for 37 or 50.

His client list went up to "several thousand", the court heard.

Mr McKay's former boss Major Gerald Crowe told the court the sergeant had been "very, very good at his job" and said he had been unaware of his war zone alcohol business.

He said: "He should not have been running his own business.

"It is not appropriate. I'm shocked to hear that."

The case continues.

SAS pay clerk 'stole $200,000'
22 Jul 08 |  England

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