East Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman Roy Beggs has outlined his support for a new joint taskforce that is to be created to tackle crime by paramilitary groups. The MLA has consistently spoken out against both republican and loyalist paramilitary organised crime in recent years.
Roy Beggs MLA said, “For too long now, paramilitaries from both the republican and loyalist persuasions, have operated beyond the rapprochement of law and order in our communities. Their illegal actions and resultant intimidation, drug misuse, extortion, loan sharking, punishment attacks, gun crime, arson and other organised criminal activity should not be tolerated in a lawful society.”
Mr Beggs, a recent member of the Justice Committee at Stormont, has a record of consistently speaking out in opposition to all forms of paramilitarism through the media and on record at Stormont.
“As an elected representative for East Antrim, I have witnessed at first hand the damage that paramilitaries inflict on communities – they operate and thrive in with an atmosphere of intimidation and fear. Families have to leave their homes, young members of our community are being overcome with addictions and vulnerable members of society are taken advantage of far too often.”
The taskforce will be a new team headed up by the PSNI, to include 40 officers, 22 staff from the National Crime Agency (NCA) and 10 customs officers in addition to a network of 160 international liaison officers and specialist tax/financial investigators. The taskforce will receive £25m over the next 5 years. Mr Beggs added, “I have often said follow the money.”
Roy Beggs concluded, “NCA & HMRC have considerable expertise and financial investigatory powers. By working closely alongside the PSNI it would be possible to gather evidence and lead to a successful prosecution of the individuals profiting from organised crime and paramilitarism. Crime gangs should not be profiting on the back of vulnerable individuals or threats to hard working citizens.”