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Shoukri 'siphoned off peace cash' claim

(Barry McCaffrey, Irish News)

Police investigating the alleged money-laundering activities of leading loyalist Andre Shoukri are understood to be probing claims that he siphoned off tens of thousands of pounds of 'peace' funding.

The 28-year-old UDA 'brigadier' was charged last November with money laundering, extortion and blackmail after a six-month investigation in north Belfast.

However, it is understood that detectives are now investigating the alleged misappropriation of EU peace funding from a loyalist prisoners' office.

Funding for the North Belfast Loyalist Prisoners Association on the Shore Road was suspended in August 2004 following apparent financial discrepancies.

Concerns were raised that a substantial sum of money could not be accounted for at that time.

Since then the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, which distributes EU peace programme funding, has been carrying out an 18-month probe into alleged financial irregularities.

A spokeswoman last night (Friday) confirmed that it continued to freeze funding to the prisoners' office.

She said its probe was expected to be concluded next month.

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Laird has also asked for details of EU funding of the office.

He was abroad and unavailable for comment last night.

The charges against Shoukri relate to an investigation into UDA racketeering in north Belfast.

Police are believed to have uncovered evidence that more than £920,000 passed through his hands in the two-year period since he was released from jail in November 2003 for possessing of firearm during a UDA feud.

It is understood officers uncovered evidence from the ledgers of at least four bookmakers in north Belfast, which showed Shoukri gambled away £800,000 despite being unemployed.

The ledgers are said to show that Shoukri regularly put £5,000 and £10,000 bets on horse races.

Detectives are also understood to have evidence that Shoukri falsified a mortgage application to pay £120,000 for a house at Clare Glen in the Ballysillan area.

The case against the loyalist is also understood to show that he took nearly a dozen foreign holidays in the two-year period and bought a host of sports cars.

This is despite Shoukri being stopped while driving one of the cars in October 2004 with no driving licence, MoT certificate and with forged insurance documents.

February 20, 2006

This article appeared first in the February 18, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

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