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Convicted Garda set up debt agency

A MEMBER of the IRA gang responsible for the death of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe has set up a debt collection agency with an ex-garda who was jailed for leaking intelligence to the IRA.

John Quinn, 43, who served six years in jail for conspiracy to commit the robbery in Adare, Co Limerick, is listed as a director of Global Debt Collection Agency, which was registered in May last year. His co-director is Denis Kelly, 47, who is a former garda.

Quinn was described as a “gopher” and “messenger boy” in the IRA’s 1996 post office robbery, in which Det Gda McCabe was gunned down and his colleague Ben O’Sullivan was seriously injured.

Kelly, meanwhile, was jailed for five years in 1992 after he was found guilty of tipping off the IRA about impending garda raids on arms dumps.

The ex-garda and the convicted IRA robber are registered on company documents, which give the address of the firm as Faha in Limerick.

Garda sources say they have received no complaints about the business. But the involvement of two convicts in recovering debts from cash-strapped businesses highlights the lack of regulation in the booming debt-collection sector.

Consumer and legal groups have repeatedly warned about the need to monitor the plethora of new debt recovery agencies that have mushroomed during the recession. The Law Reform Commission recommended the regulation of debt collection agencies earlier this year while the Free Legal Advice Centres have also called for urgent monitoring.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern is understood to be examining ways of regulating the industry.

Kelly and Quinn are among a number of former prisoners to have joined the debt collection business. Martin Foley, a one-time henchman of Martin Cahill who has survived several assassination attempts, was one of the first in the business with Viper Debt Recovery and Repossession Services.

In a separate case, the garda’s organised crime unit is investigating the involvement of criminals in debt collecting in the Dublin area. Five men were arrested in Dublin last month for allegedly aggressive debt collection.

Quinn was described in court as the “messenger” or “gopher” for the IRA gang behind the botched robbery in 1996. Quinn was charged with the unlawful possession of ammunition and with conspiring to commit a robbery. He eventually pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and was sentenced to six years in jail. During his sentencing hearing, the court heard that Quinn was a carpenter who worked for his father’s construction firm, and had no previous convictions. He claimed to “deeply regret” the killing of the detective.

During his trial, gardai said that Quinn repeatedly claimed he was a “dead man” and would be found in south Armagh with a bag over his head. He allegedly told gardai off the record: “I’m a dead man. I’m looking at 30 years, ye know that. What if this got sanctioned from above? Where do I stand? I know it got the nod from above. I was told I’d be found in south Armagh with a bag over my head.”

Four other IRA men, Pearse McAuley, Kevin Walsh, Michael O’Neill and Jeremiah Sheehy, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Det Gda McCabe.

Former garda Kelly, who is originally from Cullen, Mallow, in north Co Cork, was stationed in Henry Street garda station in Limerick city centre during the 1990s when he was caught passing information to the IRA. At the time, gardai suspected that the IRA was getting tip-offs about impending raids on arms dumps.

Kelly was caught taking notes from a confidential fax ordering a swoop on three IRA arms dumps. Detectives then followed him to a phone box where he telephoned his IRA contact to pass on the details. Kelly was later released after serving three years of a five-year sentence.