Two guilty of Real IRA gun plot

Paul McCaugherty Paul McCaugherty was found guilty after a non-jury trial

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Two men on trial after an MI5 sting operation targeting a dissident republican gun smuggling plot have been found guilty by a judge in Belfast.

Paul McCaugherty, 43, of Beech Court in Lurgan was found guilty of attempting to import weapons and explosives from a dealer who was actually an MI5 agent.

Dermot Declan Gregory of Concession Road in Crossmaglen, was found guilty of making a Portuguese property available for the purpose of terrorism.

They will be sentenced in September.

The judge described the Security Services' operation as an "elaborate and successful" hoax.

McCaugherty showed no emotion and occasionally yawned as Mr Justice Hart, sitting in a Diplock, no-jury court, delivered his verdict.

The judge rejected claims that the defendant had been "induced or entrapped" by an undercover operative called "Ali" during meetings across Europe including in Amsterdam and Instanbul.

He said that although the covert operation had been an "elaborate hoax" it did not mean he had to acquit the defendant.

McCaugherty, the judge said, had taken advantage of the opportunity, and even if he had been presented with a real arms dealer he still would have committed the offences.

The judge added that he was satisfied McCaugherty did not give evidence as "the case against the defendant on each of the counts is an extremely compelling one and that the only sensible explaination not to do so is because he has no answer to give to that case".

'Heads of the same snake'

The prosecution claimed that during a two-year security services operation between August 2004 and June 2006, McCaugherty, calling himself "Tim", handled money and negotiated deals with men he believed were able to procure weapons and explosives but were in fact agents.

The intention of the security service operation, Belfast Crown Court heard, was to "disrupt the supply and flow of money to dissident republicans in Ireland".

During the operation, the prosecution said, McCaugherty met with "Ali" on a number of occasions across Europe to discuss the supply of arms and munitions and their transportation.

McCaugherty was said to have handled over bundles of euros in a specially adapted bag telling "Ali" he needed "explosives, pistols, AK 47s, armour-piercing stuff, snipers, cords and detonators".

He was also said to have described his organisation as "one of the heads of the same snake" and claimed that they had made the bomb used in Omagh, but they had given it to others who had "screwed it up".

Armour-piercing equipment was needed, McCaugherty claimed, to target security force vehicles.

He also told the agent that police left the back doors of their landrovers open during the hot summer months and he would target this by tossing grenades inside.

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