Page last updated at 20:55 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Four men detained in serious crime probe

UVF mural
Operation Ballast has investigated a number of UVF murders

Detectives from the Serious Crime branch have arrested four men in connection with serious crime in north Belfast.

The arrests are part of Operation Ballast, which is investigating the activities of the Mount Vernon UVF.

The Serious Crime Branch took over the investigation from the Historical Enquiries Team at the end of last year.

Three of the men, who are aged 28, 32 and 62, were detained in the greater Belfast area.

The fourth man was arrested in the Antrim area.

They are the first arrests made by the Serious Crime Branch since they took over the investigation.

A police spokesperson said Operation Ballast was a "large and complex investigation which will continue for a long period of time."

Enquiries led by the Historical Enquiries Team led to 20 people being either charged or reported to the Public Prosecution Service.

Two brothers were jailed last week for their involvement in the murder of UDA boss Tommy English.

They were given reduced sentences because they have agreed to give evidence against a number of their co-accused.

Collusion

The original probe was set up amid claims that the security forces colluded with UVF members over the killings.

Former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan, claimed paramilitary killers were protected from prosecution because they were police agents.

She examined the allegations after a complaint from Belfast man Raymond McCord, whose son, Raymond McCord Junior, was murdered by the UVF in 1997.



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