Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Shame of Northern Ireland paedophile hunters: Leading 'child protector' a smuggler who flooded his area with fake cigs

By Chris Woodhouse

A member of a self-styled paedophile hunting group was once forced to pay over £71,000 to the crime busting Assets Recovery Agency, Sunday Life can reveal.

Vigilante Gary Harper (right and below) was ordered to pay the money as back tax on the illegal importation of cigarettes, booze and the distribution of counterfeit material.

Harper, based with the group Team NI Protecting Kids, pounces on men he and his cronies claim to have tricked into thinking they are chatting to kids online for sex.

The south east Antrim gang are part of a rash of similar mobs which pretend to be underage males and females, luring would-be paedophiles to a meet-up before confronting them with the truth. But Harper had his own collar felt by the now-defunct anti-criminality Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) in 2004.

The ARA sought to recover tax for the years between 1995 and 2003 during which it claimed Harper was criminally importing cigarettes and alcohol as well as distributing knocked-off goods and other unspecified criminal activity.

In a published report available online, the ARA said it had successfully argued Harper had received income from these activities above what he declared.

It was further revealed he had amassed three houses with “substantial mortgages”, a plot of land, a share in a boat and vehicles, as well as “other items of exceptional value” including jewellery.

The report also stated “sizeable sums of cash” had been paid into accounts he controlled.

When the case came before the tax Special Commissioners in November 2004 and March 2005 during which time Harper was asked to provide evidence, the tax he owed was excessive.

“At no point did he provide any such information,” said the report, “according to the Special Commissioners’ decision, the agency’s methodology was ‘sound and based on a proper approach to undeclared income’.”

Gary Harper
Gary Harper

The final amount Carrickfergus-man Harper had to pay totalled £71,281.

Last month two members of the same paedo-hunting group Harper operates with hit out at their critics in and interview with this newspaper.

“The PSNI, some politicians and people like Stephen Nolan are calling us vigilantes, but if we were vigilantes there wouldn’t be a camera or a whole show on Facebook to get these guys,” said Colin, not his real name.

The group publishes recordings of its stings on social media attracting thousands of views.

Colin added: “We’re telling the PSNI what we’re doing, giving them all our information and doing our bit as citizens to protect kids because the PSNI don’t have the resources.

“We’re not vigilantes — why would a vigilante do that?”

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