October 12, 2005

US seeks Irishman over N. Korea counterfeit cash

By Paul Eckert, Asia Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is seeking the
extradition from Britain of a senior member of an Irish
Republican Army splinter group on charges of conspiring with
North Korea to circulate counterfeit U.S. currency, officials
said on Wednesday.

The indictment of Sean Garland, described in U.S. legal
documents as the leader of Irish Workers' Party and the banned
Official Irish Republican Army, comes as Washington prepares
for more nuclear disarmament talks with Pyongyang in November.

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Garland,
71, has been charged with involvement in counterfeiting
hundred-dollar bills. "We will be requesting his extradition
from the United Kingdom," he told reporters.

The case was part of a "determined effort on behalf of the
United States government to work with our partners around the
world to prevent counterfeiting and particularly in cases where
that counterfeiting is going to regimes, to fund illicit
activity," Ereli said.

Washington has cracked down on North Korean criminal
activities, including counterfeiting, drug smuggling and
weapons proliferation. Pyongyang dismisses such accusations as
part of a U.S. plot to topple its communist system.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Garland and six others
were arrested on October 7 in Northern Ireland on charges
pending in the United States. The arrests followed a 16-year
investigation since the counterfeit bills started appearing in


Garland "operated a years-long scheme to obtain, transport,
sell, and pass as genuine, highly deceptive counterfeit $100
United States Federal Reserve Notes, sometimes referred to as
'Supernotes,"' according to the indictment.

The notes "were manufactured in the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea and under auspices of the government and
transported worldwide by North Korean individuals acting as
ostensible government officials," the Justice Department said
in a statement.

North Korean defectors have said Pyongyang uses its
embassies as conduits for contraband and North Korean diplomats
have been caught with goods ranging from hashish to banned
wildlife parts, since the 1970s.

The "Supernotes" first appeared in Ireland in the early
1990s and redesigned after the United States modified its
currency to improve security, the Justice Department said.

Garland and co-conspirators, none of whom are North
Koreans, are accused of trying to buy, transport and sell fake
$100 bills in quantities of up to $1 million.

The pursuit of North Korean crime was not a part of nuclear
arms talks among the two Koreas, Russia, Japan, China and the
United States, Ereli said.

The six parties agreed last month to principles under which
the North would dismantle its nuclear arms programs in return
for energy and economic aid. The next round of talks is
scheduled for early November in Beijing.

Ereli described a multi-pronged U.S. approach to North
Korea, in which "their involvement in illicit activity is one,
their human rights practices are another, their weapons
programs is a third."