02 February 2006

Top loyalist alerted police to £40,000 in stolen goods


02/02/2006 - 12:29:48

A top loyalist was heavily involved in handing over £40,000 (€59,000) worth of stolen industrial equipment to police, it emerged today.

Ihab Shoukri, brother of Ulster Defence Association boss Andre, was part of the team that alerted officers to equipment stashed in north Belfast.

“He was very influential in getting this stuff back,” a source said.

A generator, pipe benders, and hammer drill were found at an empty house in Ballysillan, an area blighted by paramilitary feuding and violence.

UDA men who claimed it had been stolen by a gang of ex-Loyalist Volunteer Force members took the equipment to a community centre in the nearby Westland estate.

Police were called to the premises, which are used by UDA advisers in the Ulster Political Research Group, on Tuesday.

Andre Shoukri, commander of the paramilitary organisation’s north Belfast unit, is on remand at the high security Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn, Co Antrim facing intimidation and extortion charges.
But Ihab has continued to play a prominent role in loyalist work in the area.

UPRG representatives refused to identify those involved in handing over the equipment, which is believed to have been stolen from the Mallusk industrial estate on the city’s northern outskirts.

North Belfast spokesman John Bunting claimed the move was part of an effort to stop criminality.

He said: “The entire (UDA) leadership in north Belfast was fully aware and supportive. Very senior people were involved in retrieving the stuff, along with the UPRG.

“Both the UDA and UPRG are working with residents in that community to try and put a bit of stability in that area.”

A PSNI spokeswoman confirmed grinders, a power welder, hammer drill and an engine generator were received by police.

She added: “Inquiries are ongoing regarding the ownership of these items.”

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