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In Florida trial’s wake, feds widen weapons probe

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

A week after a jury convicted three Irish men of smuggling weapons from Florida to the Provisional IRA, U.S. federal authorities have opened an investigation into other individuals who may be based elsewhere in the country.

News of the investigation comes after a London newspaper reported that American police were searching in California for a ton of weaponry purchased by the convicted men and other IRA operatives, and were tracing money linked to that operation to other U.S. cities.

Federal authorities were officially tightlipped on any details, but they acknowledged that the Florida convictions had opened up a further investigation.

"We have an ongoing investigation as a result of these three IRA individuals who were convicted. We are investigating additional allegations," said an FBI spokesman in the agency’s Miami office.

Federal authorities said that investigation essentially involves other individuals beyond the three convicted men and goes outside of the Florida area.

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The three convicted men, Conor Claxton, Martin Mullan and Anthony Smyth, were found guilty in Fort Lauderdale last week of smuggling weapons through the U.S. postal service to the IRA in boxes disguised as electronic equipment and toys.

The men were arrested in July 1999 and charged with illegally buying and mailing the guns. A subsequent murder and terrorism indictment was filed and a woman charged with the men, Siobhan Browne, pleaded guilty to lesser weapons charges.

During the trial Claxton took the stand and told the jury he was an IRA member who had worked on overseas operations before. Claxton also claimed he worked as an international representative of Sinn Fein.

The London Sunday Times, quoting security service sources, said detectives in America and Northern Ireland are now hunting for a consignment of arms, including AK47 rifles, in California and are tracking money scattered across bank accounts in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Detroit.

That account could tally with parts of the trial testimony.

One of the defendants, Martin Mullan, was arrested in Philadelphia and later transferred to face trial in Florida.

During the Florida trial, it emerged that Claxton had told investigators: "You didn’t get us all." Claxton also told the court that he had received about $10,000 from a red-headed woman in a Boston bar.

A New York FBI spokesman refused to comment on further investigations. While a Boston FBI spokesperson also had no comment, she said the agency would investigate an allegation of gun-running money changing hands in a Boston bar.

"This inquiry is far from over. The convictions last week were just the first phase," said one security source quoted in the Times. "This was a sophisticated operation involving large sums of money and operatives. We know other weapons have been bought."

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