A border-based businessman wanted in the past in connection with a £6m (€7.4m) fuel-smuggling fraud has emerged as a key supporter of jailed tycoon Sean Quinn.
Eamon Devlin, identified in court proceedings as the alleged mastermind of one of the biggest illegal fuel operations in Northern Ireland, was pictured prominently in a party of supporters of the Quinn family at a rally last July in Ballyconnell.
He was photographed with leading GAA figures including Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte and popular priest Fr Brian D'Arcy. It is the first time that he has been directly linked to Mr Quinn.
He declined to comment on his show of support for Mr Quinn when contacted through his solicitor. A Quinn family spokesman also denied there was any relationship, business or otherwise, between Mr Devlin and the jailed tycoon.
“We assume Mr Devlin was at the rally to show his support for the Quinn family like thousands of others,” the family said in a statement. The family also said Mr Devlin was not one of the secret donors said to have pledged €2m to fund the Quinn family's litigation against the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, the |former Anglo Irish Bank.
Four years ago, Mr Devlin lost a Supreme Court appeal against extradition to Northern Ireland where he was wanted on charges of “cheating the public revenue”. But the married father of five did not stand trial in Northern Ireland. It is understood the native of Culloville, south Armagh, was not extradited because of ill health.
Ten years ago, an associate of Mr Devlin was jailed for two-and-a-half years for his part in a major fuel-smuggling operation that saw an estimated 30 million litres of fuel smuggled from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland.
John Alexander Hunter, of Brentwood Park, Richhill, Co Armagh, pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fuel duty and VAT evasion, but was jailed for less than the maximum seven years because he was “not the main figure”.
Crown Court Judge Anthony Hart said that the evidence before him alleged that the fuel laundering operation was “organised by one Eamon Devlin”, who was not before the court.
Mr Hunter's trial heard that the fuel-smuggling racket came to light when a number of companies in Northern Ireland contacted the authorities after they were offered cut-price fuels.
Customs and Excise officers teamed up with colleagues in the Republic and launched an investigation which found that the operation centred on Mr Devlin's premises at Concession Road, Culloville, an address in the Republic and four companies.
The offences were alleged to have occurred between July 1997 and May 1998.