03 September 2005

Gardai flying out to probe Colombia Three file

Irish Independent

TWO gardai will travel to Colombia on Wednesday to widen the force's inquiries into the case of the Colombia Three, convicted there of training Farc terrorists. Agreement on the matter between the Garda and Colombian police was reached yesterday and the two officers have been selected. The two forces made contact right after Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly turned up here unexpectedly last month.

A senior garda confirmed to the Irish Independent last night that the two officers would continue inquiries already under way in relation to possible criminal offences in this jurisdiction.

A senior member of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and an officer from the crime and security section at Garda HQ are heading to Bogota. One is fluent in Spanish. Their visit will focus on the men's use of false passports while in Colombia.

Monaghan and McCauley travelled on bogus British documentation, which is not an offence here, but Connolly used a false Irish passport and gardai hope to delve deeply into that aspect of the case.

Connolly's passport had been issued in Dublin in the name of David Bracken, an infant, who died. The former Sinn Fein representative in Cuba gave his name as David Bracken when he was stopped by police at Bogota airport and later when he was under investigation there.

Connolly may have committed an offence by his use of the passport even though he might have been in Cuba while it was being issued.

Gardai are also anxious to establish the whereabouts of the three men after they fled Colombia following their conviction, and to pinpoint how and when they came back here. The three refused to divulge any such information when quizzed by gardai last month.

Inquiries will be made into the behaviour of the three while in Colombia. All information will form a vital part of a file to be submitted to the DPP here. The Colombian government has so far not sought extradition of the three to serve their jail sentences.

There is no extradition treaty between the countries but Justice Minister Michael McDowell has said he is not opposed to one if it is sought. Another option he outlined at Wednesday's Cabinet meeting was whether the three could serve sentences handed down in Colombia here.

Tom Brady
Security Editor

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