An alleged dissident republican told an undercover MI5 agent that his “friends” had bought a rundown house in the south of France to store guns bound for the Real IRA in Northern Ireland, a court has heard.
The agent, known as Ali, told Belfast Crown Court that the disclosure came at a meeting in Belgium with Paul Anthony John McCaugherty, one of three men on trial for a plot to smuggle weapons.
The witness said McCaugherty, who called himself Tim, told him that the house in a small village in France had been purchased for €23,000 and another €5,000 to €6,000 would be spent on it to make it habitable.
He said McCaugherty also mentioned a trailer which was waiting in Spain and which had been fitted with a false floor and lead plates to deflect scanners from finding hidden weapons.
The trio of McCaugherty, from Beech Court, Desmond Paul Kearns (44), from Tannaghmore Green, both Lurgan, and 41-year-old Dermot Declan Gregory aka Michael Dermot Gregory, from Concession Road in Crossmaglen, deny a total of eight charges.
The court heard that at one point, ‘Tim’ told ‘Ali’ how money was raised in Ireland through a pyramid scheme which was a “semi-con” in which people donated sums of up to £7,000.