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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 March, 2005, 15:46 GMT
'Drugs link' man is ex-policeman
A house in Glenavy which has been frozen
A house in Glenavy, County Antrim, was one of the assets frozen
A man with alleged links to drugs and loyalist terrorists who has had almost 5m of assets frozen is a former police officer.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed Colin Armstrong had to resign from the force over "neglect of duty".

The Assets Recovery Agency was granted an interim order and a receiver has taken control of assets of about 4.8m.

The assets, which include 49 properties, belong to Mr Armstrong and Geraldine Mallon from Glenavy.

The ARA alleges that Mr Armstrong was linked to drug trafficking between Belgium and Northern Ireland in 1994.

It is the agency's biggest ever seizure in Northern Ireland. The order was granted by the High Court in Belfast.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokeswoman said: "He was a full time reserve officer who had to leave in August 1991.

"He was required to resign as a consequence of neglect of duty. The disciplinary charges were not in respect of any criminal activities."

ARA assistant director Alan McQuillan said their case put to the court alleged that Mr Armstrong had been dealing in all types of of illegal drugs.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds
There is massive amounts being gained through money laundering, fuel laundering, through smuggling and racketeering
Nigel Dodds
DUP

"In the case of Ms Mallon, we have simply alleged that she is Mr Armstrong's partner, that she holds some of the assets in her own name, and that she is a director of some of the companies."

Mr Armstrong owns 47 houses in Northern Ireland, one in Dublin and one in France, and a number of companies, including two identified as Modern Homes (NI) Ltd and Tudor Road Properties Ltd.

It is alleged that the 38-year-old had links with the UVF, and then the LVF following the split between those organisations.

Northern Ireland Office Security Minister Ian Pearson said it was a major operation by the agency.

"This is another significant action by the ARA and clearly indicates the agency's commitment to deprive criminals of their profits," he said.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds commended the work of the ARA but pointed out that in the agency's 18-month existence only 2m had been seized.

"Those figures indicate that all the ARA is doing so far is dealing with loose change. There needs to be a big effort to get far, far more money recovered," he said.

Alan McQuillan
Alan McQuillan said people wanted the agency to concentrate on drug dealing.

Mr Dodds also said there was an imbalance between those targeted, as four times as much had been recovered from loyalists as from republicans.

"A job of work needs to be done to ensure that the vast amounts of money that is sloshing about out there in terms of republican activity, as well as loyalist activity, that that is targeted," he said.

"There is massive amounts being gained through money laundering, fuel laundering, through smuggling, racketeering and so on, on the republican side as well as the loyalist side."

However, Mr McQuillan pointed out that, until recently, an individual could not be referred to the ARA if there was an ongoing criminal investigation.

He added that a key crime people wanted the agency to concentrate on was drug dealing.

"In the loyalist community, drug dealing is run by the paramilitaries and it is generally run for personal gain by a large number of people.

"So there are a large number of targets there who are all making significant amounts of money," he said.

"If you go into the republican community, the PIRA, in general, do not do drugs, so you won't find large numbers, on the same sort of scale, of drug dealers in that community.

"The issue is that you have to judge this on the longer term."




SEE ALSO:
Agency freezes 300,000 of assets
18 Mar 05 |  Northern Ireland
Agency can seize LVF man's assets
08 Mar 05 |  Northern Ireland
DUP angry at assets 'discrepancy'
09 Mar 05 |  Northern Ireland


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