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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 February, 2005, 10:18 GMT
Robbers 'trying to deflect blame'
New Forge Country Club is owned by the RUC Athletic Association
The country club is owned by the RUC Athletic Association
There is speculation that the robbers behind the 26.5m Northern Bank robbery may be trying to implicate the security forces in the crime.

Money discovered in a police sports club was stolen in the 26.5m Northern Bank robbery, detectives confirmed.

Police discovered 50,000 in new Northern Bank notes at the Newforge Country Club in Belfast.

Five shrink-wrapped packages each containing 10,000 were found in the club toilets on Friday.

Police said the cash was planted to distract detectives investigating the Northern Bank raid and to divert attention from events elsewhere.

The DUP's Ian Paisley Jnr blamed republicans for leaving the cash in the club.

"I think this find by the police is an act of desperation by republicans, an attempt to throw the police off the scent," Mr Paisley said.

"I think it indicates just how hard the republican movement has been stung by events over the last 48 hours."

It is the first cash from the robbery to turn up.

A police spokeswoman said the notes had consecutive serial numbers and corresponded with the numbers given to the PSNI by the bank.

A man rang the Police Ombudsman on Friday claiming to be a PSNI officer and told them that drugs were hidden in the complex.

No drugs were found, but police discovered the cash packages during their search.

The RUC Athletics Association has blamed outsiders for leaving the cash.

A police spokesperson said of the Belfast find: "Initial checks would suggest that this incident is an effort to distract the police investigating the Northern Bank robbery and also to divert attention away from events elsewhere over the last two days.

"However, police are taking the find seriously and the material recovered will be examined as part of police efforts to find those responsible for the robbery."

New Forge Country Club is owned by the RUC Athletic Association.

The complex is used by former RUC officers and serving Police Service of Northern Ireland officers.

'Pending a report'

Police have blamed December's Northern Bank raid on the IRA, a charge the organisation has denied.

On Thursday, 2m - 60,000 of it in Northern Bank notes - was seized in the Irish Republic.

Police have released a man held in Cork after the money was found at his house.

On Friday night, two men arrested earlier in the week in Cork in connection with alleged money laundering were released without charge.

Two men from Londonderry, arrested in Dublin on Wednesday, were also released without charge, pending a report to the DPP.

A man was arrested on Friday night after police received reports of cash being burnt in a garden near Cork city.

Mr Adams said there was an attempt to destroy his party
Mr Adams said there was an attempt to destroy his party

Earlier, 17 bags of sterling bank notes were removed from a house near Cork.

Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy told a news conference an additional 175,000 had been surrendered to police in Dublin on Thursday night.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said there has been an organised attempt to destroy his party.

"I consider this to be a very serious situation. There's a garda inquiry going on, obviously people should cooperate with that and in time that will do whatever it does," he said in Dublin on Saturday.

"But in the meantime, I think that what is happening is quite disgraceful.

"To listen to some of our political opponents, you would think that Sinn Fein as a party, Sinn Fein as an organisation, that those who vote for our party are criminals and we're not."

Resignation

In a separate development, a former Sinn Fein vice president, Phil Flynn, resigned from an Irish government committee over his links with a company at the centre of the investigation.

He has also stepped down as chairman of the Bank of Scotland's Irish division.

Mr Flynn said he had done nothing wrong and had no involvement in laundering money for anyone.

Meanwhile, a man arrested in connection with alleged money laundering has been charged with membership of the Real IRA.

Don Bullman, 30, of Wilton, Cork, was one of three men arrested after 94,000 euros were found in a car in Dublin.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
BBC NI's Chris Buckler:
"The call was received yesterday by the Police Ombudsman's office"


Details of the first cash recovered from the robbery



SEE ALSO:
Irish police raids net millions
18 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
Security review follows bank raid
24 Jan 05 |  Northern Ireland


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