18 May 2006 Edition

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Shoukri extortion heightens UDA tensions

Tensions between the UDA and the notorious Shourki brothers have heightened after reports that Andre Shoukri extorted up to £20,000 of peace funding to feed his gambling habit. Accrording to reports, the money was raised for a, 'community house' in the Westland Estate, North Belfast through Martin McAleese the husband of President Mary McAleese.

A UDA 'inquiry' is investigating allegations the brothers extorted tens of thousands of pounds from businessmen and British government funded schemes over a three year period. Andre Shourki is alleged to have lost almost £1 million pounds, through gambling, over a two year period.

This figure was confirmed by the Public Prosecution Service when Shourki appeared in court on charges of extortion, blackmail and money laundering.

Last month a UDA inner council meeting, called to discuss the activities of the North Belfast brothers, was broken up by a 40-strong gang of Shourki supporters.

Following the meeting four of the UDA's so-called brigades supported the Shourki's expulsion while only the UDA in North Belfast and South Antrim supported the brothers.

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