Unionist paramilitaries in north Down threatened to break the arms of two teenage girls unless their families paid £2,000 to their bonfire fund.
The extortion took place in Donaghadee, County Down, after the girls were accused of lighting a bonfire prematurely on July 5, according to a report in the Sunday Life.
The families were told that unless each paid ‘compensation’ of £1,000, the kids would have their arms broken. The UDA also ordered locals to stay silent over fears the media would find out.
The new leader of the local UDA gang in north Down, from Bangor, has been blamed for issuing the threats to break the schoolgirls’ arms.
He also ordered a drug dealer close to the gang to be kneecapped as a warning to him and others not to step out of line.
One loyalist said: “He’s let the power get to his head and is running around like a Poundland Johnny Adair. He’s forever threatening to put people out. If it wasn’t for the UDA backing him up he’d struggle to put the bins out.”
Another reported revealed that those behind an attempt to build the ‘world’s largest bonfire’ in County Antrim have been operating a loan shark operation on behalf of the South East Antrim UDA.
The UDA money-lending racket sees the gang charge 20% interest on every £100 borrowed. If this isn’t paid back within a week, it doubles to 40%, and if that isn’t paid back on time, it doubles again to 80% and continues to double until the debt is settled in full.
“I know young lads who got a £100 loan to buy drugs and who ended up owing £1,000. If they cannot pay, they are given a beating and forced to join the UDA,” the loyalist said. Those who want to a leave then have to pay a get-out “fee” of £5,000.
These are among scores of complaints of illegal activity at loyalist bonfires over the July 11/12 period, which involving hundreds of individual crimes.
However, the PSNI has yet to make a single arrest in response to any of the complaints. It said it had “secured evidence of potential offending” but that “the Public Prosecution Service who will ultimately have responsibility for decisions in relation to prosecution”.