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Loyalist killer who sold fuel for republican smugglers

Old Troubles hostilities put aside in diesel smuggling operation

By Ciaran Barnes, Chief Reporter

Published 14/11/2016

Robert Clarke, 58, (front centre pictured at an earlier hearing)
Robert Clarke, 58, (front centre pictured at an earlier hearing)
Mark Pollock
Clarke's Fuels on the Dundrod Road.

A Loyalist double killer and the son-in-law of UDA boss Jim Spence have admitted running a fuel smuggling racket with nationalist criminals from west Belfast and Tyrone.

Sectarian murderer Robert ‘Brooksy’ Clarke, 64, and Mark Pollock, 37, pleaded guilty to conspiring to fraudulently evade customs duty at Belfast Crown Court last Wednesday.

Pollock — who is married to UDA godfather Jim Spence’s daughter Becky — also admitted possessing £94,000 of criminal property.

In a real ‘hands across the barricades’ operation the loyalists were trading in what is understood to be Provo-supplied smuggled fuel with crooks from the Twinbrook and Lenadoon estates in west Belfast, and Coalisland.

All three areas are considered republican heartlands and will lead to questions being asked of Clarke and Pollock, who will be sentenced in January.

Convicted with them of conspiring to fraudulently evade customs duty on fuel, and given suspended sentences ranging from two to three years, were:

  • Tracey Mary O’Neill, 39, from Gortgonis Road in Coalisland;
  •  William George, 46, from Glenwood View in west Belfast;
  •  Paul Charles Keenan, 47, from Creeslough Park in west Belfast;
  •  Alan McVeigh, 33, from Twaddell Avenue in Belfast;
  •  Derek Stevenson, 54, from Gortnagallon Road in Crumlin;
  •  Ian Thompson, 57, from Ballykennedy Road in Crumlin;

Robert ‘Brooksy’ Clarke and Mark Pollock’s guilty pleas on the eve of their trial last Wednesday brings to an end a lengthy probe into a major fuel smuggling racket that started in 2010.

The loyalist pair — who are now understood to be at loggerheads — oversaw the lucrative scheme that involved cut-price dodgy diesel which originated in south Armagh being sold to unsuspecting motorists.

The scam, which was based at Clarke’s fuel yard on the Dundrod Road near Crumlin, continued even after he had been jailed in 2011 for murder.

When the loyalist was caged for the 1973 UDA killing of Alfred Fusco, he left Pollock in charge of his business affairs.

Mark Pollock
Mark Pollock

Criminal sources claim it was then that the fuel yard started being supplied with the smuggled diesel.

In June 2011, customs officials raided Clarke’s business, which was based in the grounds of his sprawling home, and seized documents.

They also searched his office on the Shankill Road, as well as Pollock’s plush house on the Belfast Road at Nutts Corner.

It was there that they discovered £94,000 of criminal cash.

From ledgers and financial accounts they pieced together the trail of illegal fuel that led to west Belfast and Coalisland.

Robert ‘Brooksy’ Clarke was first jailed in 1975 for the sectarian murder of Catholic Margaret O’Neill, 58, who was shot dead by the UDA as she walked along the New Lodge Road in north Belfast. He was freed around 1990, but caged again in 2011 for the 1973 murder of ice-cream shop owner Alfred Fusco by the terror gang.

Clarke's Fuels on the Dundrod Road.
Clarke's Fuels on the Dundrod Road.

But because the killing occurred before the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, shaven-headed Clarke only had to serve a nominal two year prison term.

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