Ex-IRA boss could be tagged ahead of extradition hearing
Published 11/02/2009 | 14:35
A former IRA leader wanted in the US over an alleged conspiracy to undermine the dollar by flooding the world with forgeries could be electronically tagged in Ireland, it was revealed today.
Sean Garland, ex-president of the leftist Workers' Party, is seeking bail ahead of an extradition hearing in Dublin's High Court over claims that he was involved in a massive cash counterfeiting racket.
The 74-year-old, who previously skipped bail from Northern Ireland, claimed it would be "suicide" if he did the same again from the Republic as he is being treated for two types of cancer, a heart condition and diabetes.
But a Garda sergeant, in the force's extradition unit, insisted the former Official IRA chief remained a "flight risk".
Judge John McMenamin remanded Garland in custody for a further day and asked Sergeant Martin O'Neill to investigate if there were technological devices which could keep track of the accused if he were let out on bail.
American authorities want Garland to be handed over to them for questioning about the large-scale forgery of almost perfect US dollars - dubbed "super-dollars" - almost two decades ago, in an operation allegedly involving the North Korean government.
The suspected conspiracy to undermine the currency by distributing millions of counterfeit 100-dollar notes worldwide sparked a three-year investigation by the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon and the US State Department.
Garland, a veteran republican who helped steer the Official IRA away from violence and towards Marxism when it split from the Provos at the start of the Troubles, was arrested in Belfast in October 2005, on foot of a US extradition application made through the UK.
Although the PSNI objected to bail at the time, he was granted it on a number of conditions including three independent sureties of £10,000 each and an undertaking not to leave Northern Ireland.
But when the restrictions were temporarily relaxed so he could attend medical treatment in the Irish Republic, Garland never returned to Belfast.
Sgt O'Neill, who has been dealing with the case since Garland was arrested again outside the Workers' Party headquarters in Dublin almost two weeks ago, insists he may flee the country, despite his ill-health.
The bail conditions now being proposed in the Republic include Garland surrendering his passport, residing at his long-term home in Co Meath, and regularly reporting to a nearby Garda station as well as a number of independent sureties.
"These conditions are entirely identical to his undertaking in Northern Ireland and he fled bail. I don't agree to these conditions," said Sgt O'Neill.
"He can move again to another country. I would class him as being at high risk of moving on again."
But Michael Forde SC, appearing for Garland, branded the Northern Ireland arrest "curious" and "unusual" because it was made when his client was visiting the jurisdiction for a Workers' Party annual conference.
The barrister questioned why the US request was not made through authorities in the Republic, where Garland has been living in Brownstown, Navan, Co Meath, with his wife and daughter for 20 years.
An agreement between the UK and the US allowed for suspects to be handed over to the Americans without a prima facie case being established, and this would present a constitutional question in the Republic, he said.
Mr Forde said his client stated in an affidavit to the High Court that if he did flee this time it would be "virtually committing suicide" as all his medical specialists are in Dublin.
In any case, the global reach of extradition agreements now would mean Garland would have no real chance of escape, according to the barrister.
"Where would he go to? Iran, Mongolia or one of these more exotic places? And how, realistically, could he get there without a passport?"
"He is not a significant flight risk and should be granted bail," he said.
Judge McMenamin asked Sgt O'Neill to find out if there was a "technological device" which could keep track of Garland if bail were to be granted.
The ex-Official IRA leader, now national treasurer of the Workers' Party, said he would consent to such a device being attached to him if available.