10 November 2005

'Bar woman' was on a UDA death list since July

Daily Ireland

Cíarán Barnes

The woman whose evidence led to the arrest of leading loyalist Andre Shoukri has been living under an Ulster Defence Association (UDA) death threat since July, Daily Ireland has learned.
She fled the North after a UDA member put a gun to her head and told her she would be shot for “stealing UDA funds”.
Paramilitaries were angry at her attempts to clean up a pub they were using as their unofficial headquarters in north Belfast.
For months the woman had tried to force Shoukri’s UDA faction off the premises.
However, they refused to move and in the end forced her out when they threatened to kill her.
The woman left the north before contacting the PSNI and agreeing to give evidence against the UDA gang.
She gave the PSNI details on criminal rackets that were being planned in the bar and methods the north Belfast UDA use to launder cash.
On Tuesday morning detectives from the PSNI’s Organised Crime Squad arrested Andre Shoukri and his elder brother Ihab.
A close friend of the Shoukris from the Ballysillan area of north Belfast was also lifted, as was a fourth man in east Belfast.
All are still being questioned about serious crime in the north of the city.
The UDA is planning to ‘stand down’ Shoukri as its boss in north Belfast following his arrest. The 27-year-old’s successor has already been chosen.
Opponents of Shoukri within the north Belfast UDA spoke openly of his terror campaign against the woman who has now agreed to give evidence against him.
One said: “He had this girl tortured, I’m not surprised she has gone to the police. Shoukri and his gang would go into the bar where she worked and demand free drink, and they would take money out of the tills to pay for bets in the bookies.
“The woman was trying her best to make a go of her business.
“People had been staying away in their droves because Shoukri’s gang drank there, she knew this and was trying to turn the place around.
“She had enough when one of Shoukri’s mates put a gun to her head. She knew then that she had to get out and she left,” added the UDA insider.
Since joining the UDA in the mid-1990s Andre Shoukri has regularly courted trouble. In 1996 he was jailed for his involvement in the death of Dubliner Gareth Parker who was run over by a car after being punched by Shoukri.
The loyalist was back in court in 1998, when he was jailed for attempting to smuggle cigarettes.
Two years later he was jailed again for his part in a blackmail plot against a Catholic businessman. During the 2002 UDA feud, Shoukri was arrested with a gun in his car.
He was initially jailed for six years but the conviction was overturned on appeal. Elder brother Ihab, also a convicted blackmailer, has a lower profile but is currently awaiting trial for UDA membership.

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