Monday, October 10, 2005

The leader of the Marxist arm of the Official Irish Republican Army has been arrested in Northern Ireland and is being sought by U.S. authorities for his involvement in a North Korean government program to make high-quality counterfeit $100 bills known as “supernotes.”

The U.S. government has 65 days to file a formal extradition request for Sean Garland, leader of the Marxist-Leninist Irish Workers Party, who was arrested in a Belfast restaurant Friday.

The U.S. government accused Mr. Garland at his Saturday bail hearing of arranging “with North Korean agencies for the purchase of quantities of notes and enlisted other people to disseminate” the counterfeit money since the 1990s, the British Broadcasting Corp. and the Irish Times reported.

A Justice Department spokesman could not be reached for comment yesterday regarding Mr. Garland, whose connection to supernotes was first disclosed by The Washington Times in 2001. Mr. Garland was released on bond Saturday over the objections of a British government attorney who said Mr. Garland posed a flight risk.

Mr. Garland’s attorney denied the charges at the hearing.

A senior Bush administration official said Mr. Garland is wanted as part of the U.S. investigation into counterfeit supernotes uncovered during anti-crime operations that led to the August arrests of 87 persons in Los Angeles and Newark, N.J.

Operation Smoking Dragon, the Los Angeles part of the operation, uncovered a Chinese organized-crime network that dealt in counterfeit supernotes produced by the North Korean government and shipped through China to the United States.

It was the largest international counterfeit ring uncovered by the U.S. government, officials said at the time.

The senior official said Mr. Garland has been sought since May on suspicion of being involved in the global supernote network that involved operations in North Korea, China and the United States.

The network was uncovered by an interagency group known as the Illicit Activities Initiative, which is focused on North Korean counterfeiting, drug trafficking and arms proliferation. The unit is made up of officials from the State Department, Justice Department, U.S. Secret Service and CIA and was formed in part after a North Korean diplomat threatened to export nuclear weapons during a meeting of the six-party talks in April 2003.

The Irish Workers Party is the Marxist-Leninist arm of what is known as the Official Irish Republican Army, which in 1970 split into the Provisional Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein, which in 1982 became the Workers Party.

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