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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 October 2005, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Farmer denies any IRA assets link
Thomas Murphy in 1990
Thomas Murphy is alleged to be a senior IRA leader
A farmer believed to be at the centre of last week's Manchester operation by the Assets Recovery Agency has denied the "false allegations against him".

A property group was raided in a probe thought to be linked to IRA assets.

In a statement, Thomas "Slab" Murphy said being linked to the raids had caused him and his family "distress".

Meanwhile, the head of the Irish police has said cash seized in money-laundering raids in February was from the IRA's 26m Northern Bank raid.

Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy said he was satisfied the link has been established, despite the scepticism expressed by Sinn Fein.

"I am satisfied at this stage of the investigation that we will show the money recovered during Operation Phoenix is part of the takings from the robbery of the Northern Bank in Belfast."

Raids

Commissioner Conroy refused to say whether the link to the Northern Bank raid last December, which was suspected to be the work of the IRA, had been established through forensic analysis of the notes.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Thomas Murphy described himself as a "life long republican", but made no comment on the widespread accusation that he is the Chief of Staff of the IRA.

"My name has appeared on no ARA statement that I am aware of and no agency has been in contact with me in relation to any of this," he said.

"My solicitors are in contact with those concerned to ascertain why my name has been falsely linked to this case."

Lost libel

Mr Murphy said that he did not own any property and makes a living from farming.

He said that he had to sell his own home after losing a libel case to the Sunday Times.

This was in 1998, after challenging the newspaper's description of him as a prominent IRA member.

The Assets Recovery Agency last week raided property company Craven Property as part of its investigations into alleged IRA links to 250 Manchester properties valued at about 9m.

In a statement issued through Belfast solicitors Madden and Finucane, the farmer, whose property straddles the border with the Irish Republic at Hackballscross, denied any connection with Craven Property Group.

On Monday, property company boss Dermot Craven denied having any dealings with "Slab" Murphy, but said he had done business with Murphy's brother, Frank.

Murphy said in his statement: "There is absolutely no foundation to the allegations about me which have been carried in the media for some time, and repeated at length over the past week.

"I have never conducted any business with the Craven Property Group, nor have I any link with other businesses run by them."

The ARA have defended their decision to carry out the searches.

Assistant Director Alan McQuillan also denied allegations that there was a political motive for the operation.

"Our operations are driven solely by our desire to recover the proceeds of crime, we're not driven by any political or other considerations and that's the basis on which we take our decisions," he said.

Documents were seized in the Manchester searches, which took place 10 days after the IRA put its weapons beyond use and on the day Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams met Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing Street.




SEE ALSO:
Businessman denies IRA asset link
10 Oct 05 |  Northern Ireland
Solicitor says clients astounded
07 Oct 05 |  Northern Ireland
Assets swoop on 250 'IRA houses'
06 Oct 05 |  Manchester


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