Larry Zaitschek, the American chef who faces extradition proceedings against him over the so-called Castlereagh barracks ‘break-in’, has been warned by the FBI that he faces a death threat if he returns to the North.
Mr Zaitschek has strenuously denied any link to the notorious incident the heart of the heavily fortifed PSNI/RUC police Special Branch headquarters on St Patrick’s Day 2002, in which classified documents were reported to have been removed by masked men with English accents.
Although initially understood to have been ‘an inside job’, police chief Ronnie Flanagan later accused the Provisional IRA and Mr Zaitschek, a chef at the base, was identified as a central figure in the alleged plot. However, an extradition bid has failed to materialise.
The FBI has now said that Mr Zaitschek’s “personal security is at threat” if he returns to the North. Zaitschek and his legal team believe that the allegations, effectively signal the end of any extradition proceedings, as the US is unlikely to approve the extradition of one of its citizens to a region where his life is under threat.
Zaitschek believes that the death threat information may have been passed on to the FBI to ensure that any future extradition proceedings will collapse, allowing the PSNI to put the blame for that on the death threats.
The allegations of a unionist paramilitary murder threat against Zaitschek was passed onto the FBI days by the PSNI after a new extradition treaty between the USA and the Britain came into effect, something the PSNI insisted was essential to their case.
The PSNI have also prevented Zaitschek from seeing his seven-year-old son, Pearse, because he and his mother have been placed on what is described as a “witness protection scheme”.
In a further twist Zaitschek received a letter in April from PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde, saying that his estranged partner is under threat from the IRA, despite all sides now accepting that the IRA’s campaign is at an end.
“I don’t know what is going on there, or what the political motivations are,” said Zaitschek.
“I just want to see my son and have a relationship with him, that is all I care about.
“The idea that the loyalists have me on top of their hitlist is ridiculous, laughable. Who really believes that?
“And it is all the more incomprehensible when, just weeks later, Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams sat together on the basis that the IRA is now defunct.”
Zaitschek, who was questioned by the PSNI in the aftermath of the break-in, and told he was free to go, said that he had nothing do with it and that his only motivation now was to see his son. ‘‘My only aim is to establish a relationship with my only child, that is all,” said the chef. ‘‘I couldn’t care less about the politics of it all.”
Zaitschek has won support for his case from human rights groups, US congressmen and Irish politicians.
The PSNI has always insisted that the Castlereagh break-in led directly to the uncovering of a so-called “spy ring” at Stormont which collapsed the power-sharing government.
The theory has since been widely discredited because the man alleged to have been operating the spy ring, Denis Donaldson, later emerged as a self-confessed British spy. He was murdered in April of last year.
It has never explained the link or the alleged spy ring, despite the collapse of the latter case. In the meantime, Zaitschek remains the victim of a bizarre political intrigue.