Wednesday, November 16, 2005

An Irish communist leader wanted in the United States on counterfeiting charges has fled Northern Ireland to avoid extradition.

Sean Garland, head of the Workers Party of Ireland, an arm of the Official Irish Republican Army, said in a statement posted on his Internet site yesterday that he decided to remain in the Republic of Ireland, where British authorities allowed him to travel two weeks ago for medical treatment.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia said yesterday that the U.S. government will continue efforts to have Mr. Garland extradited, if he cannot be returned to Northern Ireland, which is under the legal jurisdiction of the British government.

“We will be seeking extradition of Mr. Garland from the Republic of Ireland,” said the spokesman, Channing Phillips.

Mr. Garland was indicted by a federal grand jury in May on charges of using his party contacts in North Korea to coordinate the purchase of fake $100 bills produced there.

Mr. Garland said he initially agreed to return to Belfast for an extradition hearing related to the U.S. charges but then feared the proceedings would be unfair.

“I have decided therefore not to return to British jurisdiction” because of the unjust nature of the U.S.-British extradition treaty, he said.

Mr. Garland was arrested in Belfast on Oct. 7 as the result of a 16-year investigation involving the U.S. Secret Service and other American agencies. Six men were accused of conspiring with Mr. Garland from 1997 to 2000 to buy more than $1 million in “supernotes” — high-quality counterfeit bills that are difficult to detect — from the North Koreans during travels in Ireland, Britain, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Germany and elsewhere.

The Washington Times first reported in May 2001 that a top-secret U.S. intelligence report linked Mr. Garland to the supernotes. The report said Mr. Garland was involved in supernote trafficking and had met in 1997 with Chinese Communist Party official Cao Xiaobing to discuss “unidentified business opportunities.”

Mr. Garland has denied the charges. He was released on bail after a hearing in Belfast.

The indictment was the first official U.S. government accusation linking the government of North Korea to the production of supernotes.

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