DUBLIN—An Irish Republican Army veteran wanted in the U.S. for allegedly circulating North Korean forgeries of $100 bills has won his six-year fight to avoid an American trial, a case that highlights the difficulty of winning extradition cases in Ireland.
The U.S. Justice Department in 2005 issued an international arrest warrant for Sean Garland over his alleged role in smuggling North Korean counterfeits called “superdollars.” American officials accused him of laundering more than $250,000 of the expertly produced fakes during two 1998 trips to Moscow. Garland denied this.
Dublin High Court Justice John Edwards announced Wednesday he had decided not to order Garland’s extradition and would explain his reasons Jan. 13. Defense lawyers had criticized the U.S. case as based on hearsay supplied chiefly by British intelligence.
Supporters of Garland, 77, cautioned that U.S. authorities would seek his renewed arrest if he travels outside the Republic of Ireland, where less than 10 percent of U.S. extradition requests are successful. Irish judges typically block U.S. extradition bids citing differences between the two countries in standards of evidence, crime definitions and penal policies.
In May 2005, a federal grand jury in Washington indicted Garland for allegedly dealing in North Korean superdollars. Officials in the Republic of Ireland took no action. Instead, Garland was arrested during a rare foray into the neighboring British territory of Northern Ireland.
Garland in October 2005 persuaded a Belfast judge to grant him bail to visit his home in Navan, northwest of Dublin. Weeks later, his lawyers told the court he wouldn’t return to Northern Ireland.
In 2009, Garland was arrested in Dublin on the basis of the same U.S. warrant, but his extradition trial wasn’t held until mid-2011.
Chris Hudson, a Dublin trade unionist who leads a lobbying group opposed to Garland’s extradition, appealed to the U.S. to withdraw its arrest warrant so that Garland could “travel at will outside of Ireland without fear of arrest and detention.”
Hudson said he has “always believed that the U.S. extradition demand was a vindictive act by the former Bush administration designed to punish and isolate North Korea and anyone who had connections with that country.”
Garland today remains national treasurer of the Workers Party, a fringe Marxist player in Irish politics linked to an Irish Republican Army faction called the Official IRA.
Garland was seriously wounded during a botched Official IRA attack on a Northern Ireland border police station in 1957. Two colleagues were killed, and he was interned without trial in the Irish Republic for two years.
When the outlawed IRA split into rival Official and Provisional factions in 1969 at the start of the modern Northern Ireland conflict, Garland served as an Official IRA commander.
He steered the Official IRA to a 1972 cease-fire. That faction then fought bloody feuds with both the Provisionals and a breakaway Official faction called the Irish National Liberation Army. The INLA shot and seriously wounded Garland in Dublin in 1975.
As Workers Party leader in 1986, Garland wrote a letter to the Communist Party of the then-Soviet Union seeking $1 million in hopes of inspiring Marxist revolution in Ireland.
The U.S. indictment and subsequent Justice Department affidavits accuse Garland of visiting the North Korean Embassy in Moscow several times in the 1990s and of delivering about $250,000 in superdollars to a British money-laundering contact in 1998.