Man admits laundering proceeds of bank heist linked to IRA

Feb. 19, 2014 at 10:20 PM

CORK, Ireland, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- An Irish financial adviser has admitted laundering some of the proceeds of the huge robbery, blamed on the IRA, of a bank in Northern Ireland.

Theodore "Ted" Cunningham of Offaly in County Cork pleaded guilty Tuesday in Cork to two counts involving the transfer of a total of about 275,000 pounds (about $460,000) in cash to two men who gave him checks in return, the Belfast Telegraph reported.

The robbery of the Northern Bank in Belfast a few days before Christmas in 2004 was one of the largest heists in British history. A gang of men, believed to be affiliated with the Irish Republican Army, invaded the homes of two bank executives, held their families hostage and forced them to open the vaults, getting away with more than 26 million pounds (more than $40 million).

The heist came close to derailing the peace process in Northern Ireland, although leaders of the republican Sinn Fein Party denied knowing about it or sanctioning it. Although a number of arrests were made over the years, Cunningham is the only person currently convicted of any involvement.

Cunningham was not charged with being directly involved with heist or the IRA. Prosecutors said he recklessly ignored the likelihood that large quantities of cash -- in one case stashed in two Blarney Woollen Mills plastic shopping bags -- were the proceeds of crime.

He was allowed to remain free on bail pending sentencing later this month.

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