Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 16:22 UK

MI5 sting accused 'wanted AKs and pistols'

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An earlier court hearing was told the case involved an MI5 sting operation

A man charged after an MI5 sting told an undercover operative he needed "explosives, pistols, AK 47s, armour-piercing stuff", a court has heard.

Paul McCaugherty of Beech Court, Lurgan was one of three County Armagh men arrested after the two-year operation.

The others are Desmond Kearns from Tannaghmore Green, Lurgan, and Dermot Gregory, also known as Michael Dermot, from Concession Road, Crossmaglen.

A judge at an earlier hearing was told the sting targeted the Real IRA.

Mr McCaugherty, 43, faces seven charges, including conspiring to possess firearms and explosives, using almost 46,000 euros for terrorist purposes, membership of the IRA, and making the deeds of a Portuguese restaurant available for the purposes of terrorism.

Mr Kearns, 44, is accused of conspiring to possess firearms and explosives, while Mr Gregory, 41, is accused of making the deeds of the Alvor restaurant in Portugal available for the purposes of terrorism.

During his hour-long opening, prosecuting QC Gordon Kerr said the operation began in August 2004 and ended with the arrest of the trio in June 2006.

Meetings

The operation, which the court previously heard related to what police believe was an international gun-smuggling operation, involved numerous meetings throughout Europe and Istanbul in Turkey.

Mr Kerr said: "The offences arise from an operation conducted with the security services, directed to disrupt the supply and flow of money to dissident republicans in Ireland".

He claimed that Mr Kearns, going by the name of 'John' acted as a go-between, Mr McCaugherty, calling himself 'Tim', handled the money and negotiated the deals, and that Mr Gregory handled the restaurant being used to raise funds for a terrorist group.

The lawyer said that McCaugherty met with an undercover operative called Ali on a number of occasions, including in Istanbul, to allegedly discuss the supply of arms and munitions and their transportation.

McCaugherty, who also allegedly handed over bundles of euros in a specially adapted bag, said he needed "explosives, pistols, AK 47s, armour-piercing stuff, snipers, cords and dets".

At one stage Ali said he could provide "1000 kilos of explosives, detonators and cords, 20 AK 47s, 20 RPG 22s, 10 sniper rifles, 20 pistols with silencers, and the price was 104,000 euros".

'Heads of snake'

Mr Kerr said that Mr McCaugherty described his organisation as "one of the heads of the same snake" and claimed that they had made the bomb used in Omagh, but they had given it to others who had "screwed it up".

The lawyer further claimed McCaugherty said they needed the armour-piercing equipment to target security force vehicles.

They also wanted grenades as in the summer the security forces drove around "with their jeep doors wedged open and the grenades could be thrown in".

McCaugherty also allegedly made reference to the restaurant in Portugal as a means of paying for the arms shipment, and gave Ali, among "pieces of paper, two documents relating to it".

Mr Kerr said that the court would hear from a woman who eventually handed over the deeds to the Portugal restaurant after being threatened by two men claiming to be from the IRA.

She would allegedly say she contacted Mr Gregory after the threats, but that he "was dismissive".

Various conversations during numerous meetings were secretly taped and in some cases videoed. At an earlier hearing, Mr Justice Hart was told that there were 90 hours of bugged conversations.

The trial is expected to last up to five week.



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