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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 February, 2005, 22:11 GMT
Police seize Northern Bank notes
More than 26m was stolen from the Northern Bank
More than 26m was stolen from the Northern Bank
More than 2m has been seized and seven people arrested by Irish police investigating a possible link with the 26m Northern Bank robbery in Belfast.

The cash, which was seized as part of an investigation into money laundering, included 60,000 in Northern Bank notes.

It is understood one of those being questioned is a former Sinn Fein elected representative.

It has not been confirmed if the raids are connected to the Northern robbery.

Arrests

Two men were arrested on Wednesday night during house raids in the Douglas and Passage West areas of Cork.

Another three men were also detained at Heuston train station in Dublin. It is understood that two of the men are from Londonderry and the third is from Cork.

A man and a woman were arrested in a follow-up operation in the Farran area of Cork on Thursday morning.

Searches have been taking place in the Leinster area on Thursday night.

Garda Inspector Ray McHugh said the police operation, which involved 100 officers, was significant and still evolving.

"There is a lot of work still going on, including forensic work," he said.

"We certainly wouldn't be in a position, or be prepared to say, who we were targeting."

The suspects, who are being detained under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, can be held for 72 hours before they are charged or released.

The money which was seized in Cork is being transferred to Dublin where it will be examined by the Garda Technical Bureau.

Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness said he was unaware of the arrests

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said he would make no comment on the matter until he had more information.

He said there had been previous reports of Northern Bank notes being found and those reports had been false.

A Sinn Fein spokesman said people should not jump to conclusions over the arrests.

"Over the last four weeks we have seen people rush to judgement time and time again," he said.

"We would urge people to exercise caution on this occasion and allow the truth to come out."

The party's leadership has said they believe IRA denials that it did not carry out the bank robbery.

Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kincaid, who has been in charge of the Northern Bank investigation, was in Dublin on Thursday for meetings with senior Garda officers.

It is understood the raid was high on the agenda for the discussions.

A police spokesman in Northern Ireland said it was too early to say whether or not the arrests were connected to the robbery.

"The PSNI is working closely with An Garda Siochana as we have done since the start of the investigation," he added.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Martin McGuiness gives his reaction to the arrests



SEE ALSO:
Sinn Fein leaders 'backed raids'
10 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
Irish PM says report 'blames IRA'
08 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
Irish PM meets monitoring body
31 Jan 05 |  Northern Ireland
Report due on 26m bank robbery
27 Jan 05 |  Northern Ireland
Security review follows bank raid
24 Jan 05 |  Northern Ireland



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