Belfast Telegraph

Northern ireland taskforce set up to tackle paramilitary gangs seizes assets of £450k

By Victoria Leonard

Criminal assets worth £450,000 have been seized or confiscated by the Paramilitary Crime Task Force during the past year.

The team - whose work is supported by the PSNI, National Crime Agency (NCA) and HM Revenue & Customs - has so far carried out just under 100 arrests and 200 searches, with 66 people being charged or reported to the PPS in 2016/17.

Among the criminal assets seized were over £157,000 in cash, drugs with an estimated street value of around £230,000, a Range Rover and a number of mobile food stalls. Several guns, including a machine gun, as well as ammunition and pipe bombs, have also been seized.

The team's success was outlined during the first in a series of update meetings on the progress of the Executive Action Plan on Tackling Paramilitary Activity, Criminality and Organised Crime.

The plan is being implemented in response to over 40 recommendations made by the independent three-person Fresh Start Panel, a peace process watchdog set up in the wake of the murders of two republicans in Belfast in 2015.

The Executive and Westminster governments have each committed £25m over five years, a total of £50m, to tackling paramilitary activity and associated criminality.

Speaking at the event, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said: "The fear and misery caused in our communities by paramilitaries is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

"Tackling this problem has always been a priority for the PSNI and the funding made available through Fresh Start now allows us to build a dedicated team of experts to deal with all forms of criminality linked to paramilitarism, including paramilitary style assaults, extortion, intimidation, drug dealing and money laundering."

Mr Hamilton said that the multi-disciplinary Paramilitary Crime Taskforce would "allow for a dedicated investigative partnership that will apply a long term and consistent focus on paramilitary groups".

He added: "This will be complemented by our Policing with the Community Project which will see officers working with communities to end paramilitary crime."

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