Former UDA ‘brigadier’ Andre Shoukri has been warned that police “will be sitting on top of him” when he is freed from jail.
The now imminent release of the former paramilitary leader is causing considerable tension within the loyalist community.
And it has already emerged that a close associate of Shoukri has been forced to leave his home.
“All the good work we’ve done in the past few years could be out the window in 10 minutes,” one senior figure warned, pointing to an almost inevitable confrontation with one of the most high-profile loyalist leaders.
Shoukri, who has been serving a jail sentence for extortion and blackmail, once sat on the UDA ‘inner council’ — its ‘brigadier’ leadership — but was removed in one of the many loyalist feuds.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, a senior loyalist dismissed the suggestion that the police will sit on him.
“They will watch him for a while, take a note of his movements, but they haven’t got the resources,” he said.
“He’s not going to go home and watch Coronation Street. He’s going to be a nuisance,” the source added.
It is believed Shoukri intends to live on the outskirts of north Belfast, the area of the city he once ruled as a paramilitary leader.
Several years ago he and his brother Ihab, who died in 2008, were both expelled from the UDA.
A new leadership was installed with the terrorist organisation saying: “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.”
But the UDA is not crime free. In its latest report, the Independent Monitoring Commission links parts of the loyalist group to a range of serious crimes including drug dealing, intimidation and extortion. In some cases, this is said to involve senior figures.
Outside the loyalist camp, others will be watching the Shoukri situation very closely.
“The guy has got to come out, he doesn’t want any bother,” one source commented.
He added: “He says all the right things, but can’t do them.”
Both the mainstream UDA and the Shoukri faction were part of the recent decommissioning process, putting weapons beyond use. But some still see Shoukri as a threat to the developing peace.
By Emily Moulton
Andre Shoukri has never been far from the headlines.
By the time he was old enough to drive the son of a local community worker and an Egyptian father quickly made a name for himself in the dark world of loyalist paramilitarism.
Despite his peaceful and promising upbringing in the Westland area of north Belfast, Andre, along with his brother Ihab, soon learned the tricks of the trade to become one of the most high profile — and hated — ‘brigadiers’ of the UDA.
The pair rapidly rose through the ranks under the wing of |another prominent loyalist leader, Johnny Adair.
But like his mentor, Andre’s penchant for gambling, drugs and the gangster lifestyle eventually led to his own demise.
At just 19 he was charged with the manslaughter of Catholic tennis star Gareth Parker in 1996.
Shoukri punched the young man during a fight outside a north Belfast pub. Parker later died from his injuries.
He was acquitted of manslaughter after pleading guilty to the lesser charge of |assault and malicious wounding and received an eight-month jail sentence.
Andre was catapulted into the role of leader of north Belfast — an area where members of the UDA control lucrative rackets in prostitution, drugs and extortion — following a stint in prison with his mentor Adair.
Over the next few years both he and his brother Ihab shared the position between them, but their establishment of a breakaway faction involved in extortion and drug dealing led to their expulsion from the terrorist group.
In 2006 the UDA ‘inner council’ leadership, which had become tired of the brothers’ exploits, expelled both of them.
Then in November 2007 Andre — who became known as the ‘bookies brigadier’ after squandering £1m of the UDA’s funds on gambling — was sentenced to nine years in prison for blackmail and intimidation.
Almost a year later Ihab, who had taken over as leader of north Belfast while he was in jail, died. Police did not treat his death as suspicious.
By Brian Rowan
Andre Shoukri is one of those loyalist bogeymen. He fits into the category with Johnny Adair, Billy Wright, Jim Gray, Jim Craig and John White.
Some are dead, others in exile. They are the loyalist outcasts, but at one time all were leadership figures.
Such has been the feuding and infighting in that world, there are many who live life looking over their shoulders.
Shoukri is one such individual and there are others who fear him.
They all live in a world of shadows, a place of paranoia.
The period ahead is a test for the UDA organisation — Jackie McDonald, John Bunting, Matt Kincaid, Billy McFarland and Jimmy Birch.
It is a test of their commitment to peace. One bullet fired would discredit their decommissioning.
It is also a test for Shoukri. Is he smart enough to walk away, or stupid enough not to? The wrong decision could cost him his life.