12 March 2006

‘Slab’ swoop nets €1m

Sunday Times

Enda Leahy and Nicola Tallant
March 12, 2006

MORE than €1m worth of cash and cheques was found in plastic bags hidden in a cowshed during the joint operation by gardai and the PSNI at Thomas “Slab” Murphy’s farm last week.

Gardai say officers only finished counting the cash and cheques yesterday, 48 hours after the raid. About €450,000 in sterling and euro notes, and cheques with a value in excess of €600,000 were seized.

The offices of two solicitors who had worked for Murphy — the former chief of staff of the Provisional IRA — were also searched during Thursday’s unprecedented operation.

Gardai say the Dundalk offices of Catherine Allison, a solicitor, were searched until late on Thursday night. In the north, local sources witnessed PSNI officers removing documents from the Newry office of Thomas Tiernan, a lawyer who has also represented Murphy in the past.

Tiernan refused to confirm or deny the reports this weekend.

Senior gardai say Murphy was on the premises when police converged from both sides of the border. Possibly having received a last-minute warning, he managed to disappear in only three minutes.

“Our information is that he was in the house. He had received no tip-off that we were coming and we believe he was sitting eating his breakfast,” said a senior officer. “The fry was half-eaten, the tea was poured and the seat was warm. But he was gone.

“He would have had about three minutes as we made our way up to the house. Within that time he disappeared. We believe he has a bunker on the farm and may have hid out in it. We turned the place upside down but we couldn’t find it.

“There’s a possibility he was in Michael Conlon’s house next door, which wasn’t subject to searches, and if that happened we had no great interest in going after him. The investigation will now continue, we’ll see whatever evidence is there, and it’ll go to the DPP.”

Murphy’s brothers Francis and Patrick, and Francis’s wife Judy, were all arrested on suspicion of committing revenue offences but were later released without charge.

As gardai approached from the south Judy Murphy tried to flee north by car, but was followed by the garda helicopter into British airspace at the request of the PSNI, to help police cut off her escape route.

Fifteen properties in total were raided In the republic, warrants were obtained to search nine premises under the Criminal Assets Bureau Act. About 400 officers of the PSNI, gardai, British Army, Revenue Commissioners and officials were involved.

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