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4 June 1998 Edition

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Recruitment attempt exposed

By Sean O'Tuama

An attempt last week by British Intelligence to recruit a taxi driver from the Markets area of Belfast failed when the man was advised by a Sinn Fein worker to go public.

The six week operation involved up to four undercover agents. The initial contact was initiated by an Englishman calling himself Mike Wiley posing as a second hand car dealer. After six weeks of giving the driver hefty tips and double fares for journeys around Belfast, Mallusk and Portadown, the taxi driver was sent to collect two men from the Larne ferry. En route the two men identified themselves as British intelligence agents and asked him to supply them with information about the views of people in the Lower Ormeau area and the Markets in the run up to the marching season.

In an interview with An Phoblacht the cabbie detailed the events that afternoon, Wednesday 29 May.

The agents revealed their true occupation while he was taking them to Belfast International airport shortly after the taximan had become aware that two cars were behind him. He consistently refused their offers of money including one of ``whatever you want, we can get.'' At the routine RUC checkpoint near the terminal the British agent `Sean' put his hand against his pocket and said ``Do not give us away, for your own safety.''

Before they departed another agent recited a detailed list of the cabbie's recent movements and employment history. Ominously, the MI5 men mentioned a butcher's shop that the driver had worked for and where they claimed he had been the intended target of a loyalist death squad. Eventually the gang left the taxi, leaving the driver a contact number.

He went straight to his home in the Markets and contacted a Sinn Fein member who advised him to go public with the affair.

The man's solicitor, Ciaran Steel, rang the number and asked for one of the agents using the name they had given to the driver. When the agent came to the phone the solicitor revealed the name of his client only to be told that it meant nothing to the spy.

Mr Steel confirmed that he would be writing to senior officers in both the British Army and RUC about the operation. Speaking last Thursday he said ``I intend to lodge complaints with the RUC and military at what has been a very lengthy and complicated attempt to recruit somebody by drawing the person into what appeared to be quite a legitimate business and which went on for several weeks before any actual overtures were made until they thought they had their victim in their pocket.''
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