Irish Republican News · December 29, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

A gang who carried out one of the largest bank robberies in history appear to have been tipped off that a PSNI police foot patrol was on its way to the bank.

Amid conflicting theories over who was involved, the peace process has already suffered from the fallout over the landmark 30 million Euro robbery (40 million dollars) heist at the Northern Bank in Belfast city centre.

The extraordinary amount of cash involved and the ease with which it was removed clearly point to the gang having high-level access to banking and security protocols.

But attention has focussed on the bizarre response by the PSNI to the theft.

The PSNI had been warned by traffic wardens on the Monday before Christmas that there was unusual activity at the bank.

But after spending hours emptying the vaults of the bank of its gigantic cash hoard, the thieves were able to rush away just moments before the patrol arrived.

Wads of notes were spilled as the gang made its escape with the loot -- but the PSNI team, arriving moments later, reported nothing amiss.

The revelation has increased speculation in republican areas that members of the British Crown forces were involved.


Sources in the Provisional IRA denied early allegations that it was involved. Nevertheless, the PSNI mounted raids on the homes of republicans on Christmas Eve, opening Christmas gifts in an apparently bogus attempt to find the cash.

The two-hour raid, during which detectives and forensic teams moved shoes and mobile phones and opened dozens of Christmas presents, infuriated republicans.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said that it had been “an orchestrated event by ‘securocrats’ in the British system intent on wrecking the peace process”.

Members of the British media were present as the raids took place. Sky television news provided live reports from Ardoyne, where the home of prominent republican Eddie Copeland was searched.

Adams has now complained to British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy about the raids, while Copeland has said he will make an official complaint to his lawyer.

Adams said: “Journalists were tipped off in advance of the raids taking place in order to maximise the negative media spin surrounding them.

“There is widespread anger among nationalists and republicans at [these] events. The objective of those who ordered these raids, and the heavy-handed and aggressive manner in which they were carried out, is deliberately intended to further de-stabilise the political situation.”

Copeland, a predictable ‘usual suspect’ in the eyes of the PSNI, was in bed when raid began on Christmas Eve. He said: “They deliberately targeted me because they know I’m a republican in the area. There’s no reason why they should come here, no reason at all.

“They took all my shoes away, including those I’d had for Christmas. All they left me was a pair of slip-ons. They opened all the Christmas presents as well. They just peered in and put them back again, but it was a serious invasion of my privacy.”

The PSNI search of another house in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, provoked a mini-riot, with a crowd of up to 100 people throwing stones, bottles and other missiles at police landrovers.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News