Belfast Telegraph

10 facts about the IRA’s £26.5m raid on Northern Bank

A decade on, Chris Kilpatrick examines the heist that rocked Northern Ireland

1. The Northern Bank robbery was the biggest such raid in UK history at the time. It's estimated up to 30 republicans, including top-level IRA personnel, planned and executed the robbery. They escaped with £26.5m.

2. Within days a team of 50 detectives were involved in one of the biggest criminal investigations in history. Then Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kincaid said: "This was not a lucky crime, this was a well-organised crime."

3. A major security operation took place across Northern Ireland in March 2005 to ensure the replacement of £240m worth of notes from the Northern Bank went smoothly. A special command room was set up in Belfast and extra police resources deployed to oversee the operation.

4. The Independent Monitoring Commission said senior Sinn Fein members were involved in sanctioning robberies including the Northern Bank raid. Its report in February 2005 said the party should bear its share of the blame for the series of robberies.

5. In February 2005, £50,000 of unused Northern Bank notes were found in five packages in the toilets of the PSNI's recreational club in Belfast. Police said the planting of the money in Newforge Lane was potentially "an elaborate prank aimed at directing attention away from the events elsewhere".

6. On February 16, 2005, speaking on Spanish radio, Gerry Adams for the first time indicated that the IRA may have been behind the raid on the Northern Bank. He said: "The IRA has said it was not them. I believe them, but maybe I am wrong."

7. Charges against two suspects were dropped in January 2007. A DUP MLA claimed public confidence in the police's ability to handle major cases was being destroyed. Jim Wells delivered his scathing assessment of the inquiry following a dramatic court hearing.

8. A Co Cork financial adviser, Ted Cunningham, was given a five-year suspended sentence for laundering more than £3m from the haul. Northern Bank employee Chris Ward was the only person to face trial in Northern Ireland. The case collapsed in 2008 and he was cleared of all charges.

9. The timing and scale of the robbery was a major blow to the peace process, taking the British, Irish and US governments by surprise. It was a huge setback to efforts to rebuild a fragile political deal.

10. Former police chief Alan McQuillan said the Provisional IRA may still be storing some of the stolen money while it waits for an opportunity to move it on.

Mr McQuillan said: "That amount of money isn't easy to launder."

Belfast Telegraph

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