Omagh kidnap gang get suspended sentences

Thursday, 2 March 2017

SUSPENDED sentences have been handed down to five men involved in a kidnap plot, in which an armed gang threatened to cut off the victim's fingers.

A cattle dealer was tied up at gunpoint near Omagh, and held captive for five days in 2012. He was targeted over an alleged unpaid debt. The gang allegedly demanded a £400,000 ransom from his father by threatening to cut off their captive's fingers. The court heard his father had called their bluff by replying "cut away" and ended the call before contacting the police.

One of the accused, Scottish businessman Robert Vevers, pleaded guilty to kidnapping, false imprisonment and blackmail. The 59-year-old, from Crawick in Dumfries, claimed the victim owed him a genuine debt of £227,000 after a livestock deal.

But by contacting criminals in Dublin to try to recover the money, Vevers had "effectively sold his soul to the devil", according to the judge at Dungannon Crown Court, sitting in Antrim. The judge said Vevers' decision to take the law into his own hands was an "idiotic moment".

The victim, Paul Gogan, originally from Co Meath, travelled from his home in Essex to Northern Ireland in 2012 in the belief that he would be viewing a meat factory near Ballymena, County Antrim.

Vevers accompanied the cattle dealer on his trip, but instead, Mr Gogan was driven to a farmyard near Omagh where an armed gang was waiting to kidnap him.

The victim and his family did not engage with the prosecution and there were no victim impact statements, something which the judge said was "almost unprecedented" in this "unusual, difficult and indeed remarkable case".

Vevers was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison suspended for three years.

The judge said that as Vevers had already served nine months in custody and had been on bail for the past 18 months it would be unfair to send him back in jail. He said he had paid a very high price, his good name was in tatters and his reputation lost.

The court was told that during his ordeal, Mr Gogan was tied up at gunpoint, hooded and bundled into a van and driven to a remote site used as a motorsport track off the Tullycar Road near Castlederg. He was locked away in a refrigerated shipping container for five days, bound by cable ties, a few miles from the Irish border.

A ransom of £400,000 was then demanded from his father, Robert Gogan. After they threatened to cut off his son's fingers, Mr Gogan alerted gardaí.

The court heard the gang then discovered the debt they were trying to recover was substantially less than what they had been told.

It was eventually agreed that 100,000 euros (£85,000) would be left at Bellewstown Racecourse and Paul Gogan was released in Drogheda, County Louth.

The court was also told that Vevers' business and marriage had collapsed and his health had suffered as a result of the alleged debt owed to him by Mr Gogan.

The prosecution claimed that Vevers contacted criminals in Dublin who, in turn, recruited men in Omagh to assist them in the kidnap and extortion plot.

Four men from County Tyrone admitted taking part in the plot.

Patrick Noel McCaul, 44, from Slieveard Rise, Omagh, and Matthew McLean, 27, from Glenpark Road, also in Omagh, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit blackmail. They were sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for three years.

Robert McLean, 22, from Deverney Park, Omagh, and Martin Arkinson, 21, from Ballycolman Estate, Strabane, entered guilty pleas to assisting offenders by buying food and telephone top-up cards.

McClean received an 18-month sentence and Arkinson a 12-month sentence, both suspended for three years.

McCaul's defence lawyer said the men before the court were not the main instigators and that they thought that an attempt was being made to recover "a genuine debt".

In response the judge pointed out that "they were not being good Samaritans" to which the lawyer agreed "it was unlawful".

A prosecution lawyer said the men from Dublin were the central players but were not before the court.

He said it would be their intention that they would be extradited, but he later confirmed that the men had been arrested and interviewed by gardaí but Irish prosecutors had decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute them in the Republic of Ireland.


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