An Irish Republican Army veteran long accused of laundering counterfeit U.S. $100 bills on behalf of North Korea could face trial in Ireland, a Dublin judge announced Friday.
High Court Justice John Edwards said he has forwarded an evidence file to state prosecutors against Sean Garland, 76, who denies smuggling more than $250,000 worth of fake American banknotes from the North Korean embassy in Moscow in 1998.
Edwards issued his follow-up statement one month after he rejected a 6-year-old U.S. extradition warrant for Garland. The judge explained that the alleged conspiracy was concocted in part on Irish soil, therefore Garland must stand trial in Ireland, not the United States.
The judge also ordered Garland's house deeds and euro75,000 ($98,000) in bail money returned to him pending any Irish decision to charge him.
In May 2005, a U.S. federal grand jury in Washington indicted Garland for allegedly dealing in North Korean "superdollars" _ so called because of their exceptional high quality _ and the U.S. Justice Department issued an international arrest warrant.
American officials said Garland received two loads of fake $100 bills during two 1998 trips to Moscow, when Russian interior ministry police said they tailed him traveling in North Korean diplomatic-plated cars to the North Korean embassy. Garland admitted traveling to Moscow but has denied everything else.
Officials in the Republic of Ireland took no immediate action following the American arrest demand. Instead, Garland was arrested during a rare 2005 foray into neighboring Northern Ireland, where British authorities traditionally are much more open to permitting a U.S. extradition.
However, Garland in October 2005 persuaded a Belfast judge to grant him bail to visit his home near Dublin. Weeks later, his lawyers told that court he wouldn't return.
In 2009, Garland was arrested in Dublin on the basis of the same U.S. warrant. His extradition trial was delayed to mid-2011.
Garland today remains national treasurer of the Workers Party, a fringe Marxist player in Irish politics linked to an Irish Republican Army faction called the Official IRA.
Garland was seriously wounded during a botched IRA attack on a Northern Ireland border police station in 1957. Two colleagues were killed, and he was interned without trial in the Irish Republic for two years.
When the outlawed IRA split into rival Official and Provisional factions in 1969 at the start of the modern Northern Ireland conflict, Garland served as an Official IRA commander.
He steered the Official IRA to a 1972 cease-fire. That faction then fought bloody feuds with both the Provisionals and a breakaway Official faction called the Irish National Liberation Army. The INLA shot and seriously wounded Garland in Dublin in 1975.
As Workers Party leader in 1986, Garland wrote a letter to the Communist Party of the then-Soviet Union seeking $1 million in hopes of inspiring Marxist revolution in Ireland.
The U.S. indictment and subsequent Justice Department affidavits accuse Garland of visiting the North Korean embassy in Moscow several times; of delivering superdollars to a British money-laundering contact at a Moscow hotel room in 1998; and of using other criminal contacts in Birmingham, England, and Dublin to sell the notes to Irish and English underworld contacts at less than half their face value.
Garland campaign site, http://seangarlandextradition.wordpress.com/