Dissident Colin Duffy ‘targeted by MI5 in Spanish sting’

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High-profile Lurgan dissident republican Colin Duffy was allegedly targeted in an MI5 sting operation staged at a Spanish resort, a court has heard.

An agent claimed he posed as a holidaying Serbian businessman with links to the criminal underworld in a bid to secretly record any discussions about potential arms dealing.

Another undercover operative portrayed his girlfriend during the assignment aimed at securing an encounter with Duffy in Majorca.

Details emerged at a hearing to decide if the 48-year-old Lurgan man is to stand trial on a series of terror-related charges.

Duffy is accused of directing and belonging to an IRA grouping, and attempting to murder members of the PSNI.

He faces further counts of possessing firearms and ammunition, and conspiring with Alex McCrory and Henry Fitzsimons to murder security force members.

The alleged offences are connected to a gun attack on a police convoy in north Belfast.

A PSNI Land Rover and two accompanying vehicles came under fire on the Crumlin Road in December 2013.

Lawyers for Duffy, formerly of Forst Glade in Lurgan; 54-year-old McCrory, from Sliabh Dubh View in Belfast; and 47-year-old Fitzsimons, of no fixed address, are challenging the strength of the evidence against them.

They contend that the three accused should not be returned for trial.

During preliminary inquiry proceedings at Belfast Magistrates’ Court one witness said to have worked for MI5 testified anonymously.

He told of being recruited to take part in an operation in Santa Ponsa in August 2013.

Along with a woman posing as his girlfriend, and a man who was to play the role of a close associate accompanying him on holiday, they met at briefings before deployment to prepare their false backgrounds or “legends”, the court heard.

The assignment, which involved wearing covert recording devices, was to be purely evidence gathering.

“On the first meeting with the security services the proposal was would I participate in an operation playing a businessman with a dodgy background and look like being from a criminal background, to which I said yes,” he told the court.

Duffy’s legal team have not accepted he ever met the undercover agent.

But during last week’s cross-examination defence counsel Mark Mulholland raised the general issue of an agent provocateur crossing boundaries to instigate or induce others into wrongdoing.

He put it to the witness that his general depiction was to be that of someone from the underworld.

Replying from behind screens, the agent explained that he and his fake girlfriend were to be “a very odd couple, intriguing the whole beach”.

He claimed that a heated debate with his associate was staged in view of Mr Mulholland’s client.

“During that I realised that Mr Duffy was looking at us, and I think he believed that theatre,” he added.

Questioned about the contents of his witness statement, the agent continued: “The arms dealing would eventually (come) during the conversation if engaged in the conversation with Mr Duffy.”

There is no suggestion that any weapons deal was ever arranged.

As the courtroom exchanges continued, Mr Mulholland stressed that on the prosecution case the operation’s target, whoever it was, had been on a family holiday, “no more, no less”.

At one stage the agent wore a wire-type device to record a meeting at a bar in the resort.

He confirmed that he could switch it on and off whenever he wanted.

The case continues.