Jailed former paramilitary brigadier Andre Shoukri has met the decommissioning chief, General John de Chastelain, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
According to a senior UDA source the meeting happened while Shoukri was on parole from Maghaberry Prison, where he is serving a sentence for extortion and blackmail.
Details of the secret meeting began to emerge last night, with one loyalist labelling it “a disgrace”. “It’s true. That’s 100 percent,” the paramilitary leadership source told this newspaper.
“He (Shoukri) has definitely been out and he has definitely met de Chastelain,” the source told this newspaper.
There was no confirmation from the Northern Ireland Office.
A spokesman said Shoukri at this stage of his sentence is eligible for home release.
“He applied for home release and that was granted,” the spokesman continued. “On home release he abided by the strict conditions that apply.”
At the top of the UDA a source is insisting that Shoukri met General de Chastelain and is planning to decommission weapons “that don’t belong to him”.
“They belong to what was his UDA brigade,” the source told this newspaper.
“The people who are working to fulfil their obligations before the deadline (the final deadline for decommissioning in February) feel as if they have been shafted,” the source continued.
“He (Shoukri) is a drug dealer, a gangster and certainly not a loyalist and he is being afforded the same status as everybody else.
“He had weapons put away for his own criminal activity,” the source said of Shoukri. “He is almost as hated as Adair.”
Andre Shoukri once held one of the most senior leadership positions in the UDA — its north Belfast brigadier.
But the paramilitary group later expelled him and his brother, Ihab, who died last year.
In June 2006 the UDA leadership said: “It is our duty as defenders of the Protestant people whom we serve to create safer communities that are drug and crime free and where our people can live without fear of oppression.”
It was the beginning of a major split within the organisation, with the breakaway southeast Antrim brigade siding with the Shoukris and their associate Alan McClean.
The mainstream UDA began decommissioning in June and has until the final deadline next February to complete the process.
Last night the Belfast Telegraph was unable to contact the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.