Questions remain for Bank of England and police a decade after peer’s revelations, says Nelson McCausland
Much has been written about Sinn Fein’s recent financial windfall of £1.5m from the will of William E Hampton, an eccentric — and clearly troubled — recluse in England. There may well be another £1m to follow, but whether it be £1.5m, or £2.5m, it is only one of many sources of Sinn Fein funding.
Over a period of 20 years, Sinn Fein has brought in a total of $12m from the USA in donations from construction companies, trade unions and film stars, such as Martin Sheen, whose mother emigrated from Tipperary.
Sinn Fein has also managed to milk the public purse, with members who are elected to Westminster, but refuse to take their seats in the House of Commons. Nevertheless, they still manage to claim their expenses from the House of Commons.
Then, of course, there was the BBC investigation in 2014, which uncovered the fact that, over the previous decade, Sinn Fein MLAs had claimed £700,000 for “research”, with the money going to Research Services Ireland Ltd, whose directors were said by the programme to include two members of the Sinn Fein finance department.
They also found out that the RSI office was in a building rented from a “residents’ association”, whose chairman was another prominent Sinn Fein member.
With all this money flowing in, there obviously isn’t much need for Sinn Fein to organise cake sales to raise funds.
Irish republicanism was also the beneficiary of the £26.5m that was stolen from the Northern Bank in 2004 and, the following year, there were newspaper reports of a Provo property empire in Eastern Europe, with a property portfolio that reached into Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia.
Newspaper reports also referred to bank accounts in Switzerland, Lichtenstein and offshore tax havens, such as the Virgin Islands. It was said that these matters were under investigation, but what came of that investigation?
Around the same time, the Assets Recovery Agency raided a number of addresses in England. They were in pursuit of a portfolio of 250 properties that were said to be linked to the IRA and were valued at £30m.
However, the biggest of all the revelations about IRA money came in 2010, in a speech in the House of Lords.
Lord James of Blackheath, then a Conservative peer, said that, between 1989 and 1997-1998, he had been brought in by the Bank of England as a troubleshooter to “deal with problems” caused by laundered, terrorist-related money.
There were companies that were conduits for terrorist funds and his role with the Bank of England was to run the companies down and liquidise the assets.
There were a number of terrorist organisations, which were laundering money through a variety of companies, and there was a lot of money involved, but he said: “My biggest client was the IRA and I am pleased to say that I managed to write off more than £1bn of its money. The IRA had five companies completely ruined. They had built the companies up as pension funds.”
This coincided with the period when the Belfast Agreement was being negotiated. Sinn Fein politicians were sitting at the talks table, while the IRA was preparing for a prosperous future with the equivalent of dozens of Northern Bank robberies.
That revelation came almost 10 years ago, so we are entitled to ask some questions as to the progress that has been made in following up on this revelation.
The first question would be for the Bank of England. When you became aware of this, around 1989, what did you do to inform the police, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the security services?
If the Bank of England was able to run down five companies, with assets of £1bn, it must have had plenty of detailed information to pass on.
The second question would be for the police, HMRC and the security services. What has been done to investigate and bring to justice those who procured the terrorist money and those who helped to process the money?
What were the names of the companies? Who were the directors? And where did the IRA’s “terrorist money” come from?
The answers to all these questions could be very interesting.