05 November 2005

Lawyer: Client Innocent of Record Heist

Guardian

By CHRIS THORNTON
Associated Press Writer
Friday November 4, 2005 7:31 PM

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) - A construction worker charged with taking part in a $47 million bank robbery that authorities have blamed on the Irish Republican Army is ``entirely innocent,'' his lawyer said Friday before a brief court appearance.

Dominic McEvoy, 23, has been charged with possession of a gun or imitation firearm and the false imprisonment of a bank official and his wife as part of the December robbery, one of Europe's largest ever.

McEvoy has not entered a plea. Police continued to question three other suspects Friday, but a fourth was released without charge.

Authorities have blamed the Northern Bank robbery in downtown Belfast on the IRA, which has repeatedly denied any link. The IRA-linked Sinn Fein political party has protested the arrests, claiming some of the men were targeted because they've supported the IRA's cause.

Police said the bank official's family was held hostage while he and a colleague were ordered to go to the bank, where thieves looted the vaults. Police said McEvoy's DNA was found on a hat left at the home.

Detective Inspector Sean Wright told the court that McEvoy had been interviewed seven times after his arrest Tuesday. The officer said McEvoy told police he had no involvement in the robbery or the kidnapping.

McEvoy also said he believed police had DNA evidence that could link the hat to another person.

When asked by McEvoy's lawyer, Peter Corrigan, why a lineup was not held after McEvoy's arrest, Wright said the prosecution's case is based on circumstantial and forensic evidence, not on witnesses' identification.

Kevin Winters, another lawyer representing McEvoy, said before the hearing that McEvoy was ``entirely innocent'' and that his family was bewildered by the charges.

``The family are still in a state of shock as a result firstly of the arrest and the manner in which it was carried out, and secondly because of the charges being brought,'' Winters said before the court appearance.

Officials have recovered about $16 million. Although one of Europe's largest, it was smaller than a $65 million theft from a London safe deposit center in 1987, a $70 million robbery in Brazil this year, and a $900 million-plus heist from the Iraq Central Bank in 2003.

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