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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 16:55 GMT
Charges after smuggling operation
Diesel pump
A number of the charges related to smuggled fuel
Nine men have appeared in court in connection with a large scale operation against smuggling on both sides of the Irish border.

Five people were charged with money laundering and the others with smuggling fuel.

They appeared before Belfast Magistrate's Court on Friday.

The charges are connected to an operation on Wednesday when more than 200 police and 100 customs officers searched premises in south Armagh and Tyrone. They seized fuel tankers and cash.

Irish police and Criminal Assets Bureau officers assisted in the operation in the Republic of Ireland, searching premises in Louth and Monaghan.

'Dissident republican'

In the dock on money laundering charges were brothers Seamus Burke, 36, of Killuney Road, Armagh; John Francis Burke, 33, and Michael Burke, 31, both of Castleblayney Road; Keady, Selwyn Doran, 44, of Drummanmore Road, Armagh; and John Kenneth Doran, 45, of Killuney Park Road, Armagh.

The four defendants accused of fuel smuggling were John Thomas Donaldson, 40, of Ballyfannahan Road, Cullyhanna; Stephen McCrea, 37, of Damolly Road, Newry; Paul Eugene Kelly, 33, of Loughaveely Road, Crossmaglen; and Damien John McGleenan, 35, of Carby Heights, Keady.

Defence solicitors in the court strongly objected to media reports that the raids, codenamed Operation Spendthrift, were into criminal gangs linked to dissident republican paramilitaries.

Bail

The solicitors said their clients had no connections to paramilitary organisations and the reports could prejudice their right to a fair trial.

A police witness said he understood there was "no connection with terrorism".

A prosecution lawyer said no such claim had been made in official press statements.

All the defendants were remanded on bail until 11 January.

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