Assets belonging to the man accused of being the Army’s top-ranking IRA agent should be frozen during an independent police investigation, relatives of his alleged victims said.
They urged the National Crime Agency (NCA) – Britain’s FBI – to investigate cash allegedly transferred by the UK Government to a former bricklayer claimed to be the informer known as Stakeknife.
Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Jon Boutcher says he is rigorously but fairly gathering information about a high-ranking mole who reputedly led the republican organisation’s “nutting squad”, which brutally interrogated and murdered suspected spies and informers during the Northern Ireland conflict.
In 2003, Stakeknife was widely named as west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, but he has always strongly denied it, and rejects claims that he was an IRA informer.
Mark Thompson, chief executive of Belfast-based Relatives for Justice lobby group, in a letter to the NCA said: “On behalf of the families killed as a result of the activities of agent Stakeknife we request that the NCA investigate these payments by the UK Government; freeze all assets of Mr Scappaticci and the accounts to which these monies were paid into; if necessitated conduct financial forensic audits of his accounts and any financial transfers to other accounts should there have been a bid to conceal money; transfers including property deeds, shares, bonds and other assets and net gains to relatives and/or close friends and associates.”
Mr Thompson claimed payments were made for potentially criminal action and should be seized or frozen pending the outcome of Mr Boutcher’s investigation.
Dozens of detectives are probing more than 50 murders linked to Stakeknife as part of the chief constable’s Operation Kenova.
Suspects including members of the security forces and the Provisional IRA are being brought in for questioning, the senior officer has said.
The inquiry is centred on possible crimes by paramilitaries, agents and Army and police handlers linked to Stakeknife.
Multiple murders, attempted murders, torture and unlawful imprisonments are included.
Steve Rodhouse, director of general operations at the NCA, said: “Given the obvious evidential nexus to Operation Kenova, whether the alleged proceeds of any criminal benefit purportedly obtained by Mr Scappaticci up to circa 1994 can in fact be identified and pursued is clearly a matter for the Public Prosecution Service Northern Ireland (PPSNI) and Mr Boutcher collegiately to consider.
“Furthermore and in any event, while the NCA has functions conferred on it under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, it does not currently have a counter-terrorism remit under the Crime and Courts Act 2013, in consequence of which, the NCA is not empowered to investigate the activities of Mr Scappaticci et al and by extension, evidence of any assets which may be identified as having been acquired in consequence of the activities alleged.
“The NCA will however keep the matters raised in your letter under review pending the outcome of Operation Kenova.”