Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Charity probe over UDA's 'Dopey Denis' suspected of laundering cash


Denis Cunningham
Denis Cunningham
Mo
Ciaran Barnes

By Ciaran Barnes

The Charity Commission is set to investigate a community group which employs a convicted UDA mouthpiece after he was arrested on suspicion of money laundering.

Denis Cunningham is still working for the Lower Shankill Community Association (LSCA) despite being on police bail after the Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCT) seized cash from his west Belfast home.

Also arrested during the same anti-terror operation was convicted UDA killer Mo Courtney (56).

A PSNI application to continue to detain money taken during the recent raids of their properties, and that of Shankill loyalist Robert 'Roy' Douglas, was granted at Belfast Magistrates Court last week.

Both Cunningham and Douglas have close ties with the government-funded LSCA, which is based inside a building that locals claim doubles up as an unofficial UDA headquarters.

The office also hosts other staff and groups that are in no way linked to crime.

Convicted terrorist Cunningham (66) is a community worker at the LSCA, while Douglas sits on its board of trustees.

Cunningham - who is the 'C Company' finance officer - was caged for two-and-a-half years in 2005 for reading out a UDA terror statement while wearing distinctive glasses over a balaclava.

The infamous incident led to him being easily identified by police and getting the nickname 'Dopey Denis'.

Sunday Life has learned that as soon as the latest PSNI investigation into Cunningham concludes, the Charity Commission is to probe his role within the LSCA.

LSCA
LSCA

Officials are understood to be deeply concerned at how he has been implicated in a police anti-UDA money laundering investigation.

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said she could not comment at this stage as it did not "wish to prejudice any current or potential investigation".

Confirming Cunningham and Courtney's arrests on suspicion of UDA money laundering, a PSNI spokeswoman said: "Officers from the PSNI Paramilitary Crime Task Force arrested two men aged 56 and 66 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

"Police also seized a car and a substantial sum of money. Both men were arrested on suspicion of money laundering offences."

Despite the building in which it is based being the centre of UDA headquarters claims, the LSCA has raked in more than £1m in government and charitable funding over the past decade.

The cash includes grants from Stormont, Belfast City Council, the Irish Government, Housing Executive, Special European Union Programmes Body and the National Lottery.

Denis
Denis

In 2013 local woman Tracey Coulter was assaulted in the LSCA offices after she went there to complain about UDA drug-dealing. Mo Courtney headbutted Tracey and grabbed her by the throat - an assault for which he was later convicted and given a suspended sentence.

Locals say he continues to visit the LSCA building despite being at the centre of a PSNI money laundering probe alongside its employee Cunningham and board member Douglas.

Courtney heads up the UDA's Lower Shankill 'C Company' which the PSNI regard as the biggest organised drugs gang in Belfast.

His dealers rake in tens of thousands of pounds every week, with the loyalist taking most of the profits before a portion is kicked back to his UDA boss Matt Kincaid.

The thug previously served a four-year jail sentence for the manslaughter of rival UDA member Alan 'Bucky' McCullough whose body was dumped in a shallow grave.

After being freed in 2011 he was given suspended prison sentences for headbutting Tracey Coulter and later threatening to kill victims campaigner Raymond McCord.


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