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Two in Florida court on weapons charges

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

Two suspects charged in the Florida arms smuggling ring appeared in a federal court Friday as prosecutors continued to build their case against the four Irish nationals indicted in the US investigation.

One of the suspects, Siobhan Browne, pleaded not guilty at her formal arraignment in Fort Lauderdale federal court on charges she conspired to illegally mail weapons from Florida to Ireland, a spokeswoman for the Miami US Attorney’s office said.

Prosecutors have also charged Martin Mullan, a County Antrim man who had been extradited to Florida from Philadelphia earlier in the week. Mullan still had not retained a Florida lawyer and will be arraigned at a later date.

Prosecutors said Browne and Mullan are part of a weapons smuggling ring which tried to send handguns, shotguns and ammunition through the U.S. mail to Ireland and Northern Ireland using packages marked with labels for toys and electronic equipment.

Dozens of weapons, mainly high-powered handguns, and ammunition have been intercepted in parcels mailed from the US to Ireland and Britain, authorities said.

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Federal agents arrested Browne, Conor Claxton and Browne’s companion Anthony Smyth in Fort Lauderdale on July 26. Mullan was arrested in Philadelphia on the same day. Claxton and Smyth were arraigned last week and both men pleaded not guilty.

Claxton allegedly told federal agents that he was on an arms-buying mission for the Provisional IRA, a claim his lawyer has said he denies making.

Browne’s friends said she had until recently been a successful real estate and stock brokerage manager who once worked for Morgan Stanley. Prosecutors are also holding Browne’s former husband as a material witness in the case.

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