A south Armagh man who unwittingly brought down a UK crime gang after he was caught with more than £100,000 of their cash has walked free from court on a suspended sentence for money laundering.
Vincent McGeough, from the Caramoyle Estate in Keady, was part of a gang involved in the smuggling of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of illicit cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol into the UK.
The group was caught after 68-year-old McGeough was spotted by undercover HM Customs and Revenue officers exchanging a bag containing almost £110,000 in cash with fellow gang member and Dundalk man James Woods (58), close to East Midlands Airport in April 2013.
When officers swooped on the pair, McGeough fled with the money and flagged down a car in a bid to escape. However, the vehicle was being driven by a HMRC investigator. He was then arrested and his mobile phones and the cash were seized.
McGeough's capture led to the arrest of the gang boss who was running the lucrative criminal enterprise from behind bars in England.
At Sheffield Crown Court yesterday, McGeough received a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, for money laundering.
He was one of five gang members sentenced for involvement in the smuggling operation.
Kingpin Irvin Dunn, from South Yorkshire in England, who orchestrated the fraud from a prison cell, was given three years' jail after pleading guilty to conspiracy to evade duty.
His brother Wayne Dunn (57), also from South Yorkshire, was jailed for 21 months for conspiracy to evade duty.
Woods, from Canal Road, Dundalk, received a 12-month suspended prison sentence for money laundering.
A fifth man, Lee Pearson (33), of South Yorkshire, also received a 12-month suspended sentence for conspiracy to evade duty.
HMRC said last night that the full extent of the fraud began to unravel after the officers witnessed the cash handover involving McGeough and Woods.
According to HMRC, shortly after McGeough's and Wood's arrest it became clear Wayne Dunn was an associate.
This then led them to Lee Pearson, who was arrested after HMRC officers discovered tobacco and more than 1,000 litres of illicit beer and vodka, which contained toxic methanol 150 times the legal limit, in two barns he was in charge of.
Stuart Taylor, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: "These men all played a part in flooding the UK with illegal cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol solely to line their own pockets with money that should have been funding vital public services.
"Irvin Dunn even pulled the strings while he was in prison using coded messages. But their fraud has been broken down and picked apart and now they are all paying the price."
Confiscation proceedings to recover the proceeds of the criminal activity will now follow, a HMRC official added.