July 3, 2003
FBI spy refuses to name lawyer in McKevitt trial
03/07/2003 - 2:34:50 pm
Associates of alleged Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt would hunt down star witness David Rupert’s lawyer if his identity was disclosed, a court heard today.
Mr Rupert, the FBI spy testifying against the suspected dissident Republican terror chief, also claimed his daughter was threatened with death if he gave evidence at an unnamed trial.
The US trucking company boss turned double agent refused to disclose his attorney’s name during a tense exchange at Dublin’s Special Criminal Court over his tax payments.
Even though defence counsel Hugh Hartnett, SC, insisted he needed to see details of his arrangements with IRS officials over a bill that at one stage spiralled to $750,000, Mr Rupert said his lawyer had advised him he did not have to open up his books.
George Birmingham, SC, for the prosecution, also opposed the defence demands and claimed: “If Mr McKevitt’s friends know where Mr Rupert’s lawyer is they could track him down with only one possible consequence.”
Mr Hartnett immediately replied: “That is an outrageous allegation.”
Mr Rupert is the key prosecution witness in the trial of McKevitt, 53, of Blackrock, Dundalk, Co Louth who denies directing terrorism and being a member of the Real IRA, the organisation who murdered 29 people in the 1998 Omagh bombing.
Despite running up huge debts after his business collapsed in 1992, Mr Rupert insisted he had filled in all tax returns since then apart from in 1997.
But when challenged to produce evidence of this he refused because of security concerns and his rights as a US citizen.
Mr Rupert was paid a total of $1.25m to infiltrate dissident republican organisations, but Mr Hartnett also wanted to know how he had reached a settlement involving the FBI and the IRS which saw his $750,000 tax bill slashed to just $25,000.
“The arrangements made to an informer whereby he will not have to pay tax are clearly relevant to his probity and his motive,” he
As the defence continued to press for the name of his lawyer Mr Rupert said: “My daughter is also attorney with this group and she received a death threat if I was to testify in another trial.”
With the prosecution backing his resistance, Mr Hartnett claimed: “Mr Birmingham realises that the witness is in a pickle.”
Producing a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions which he said allowed him to question Mr Rupert’s tax affairs, he added: “Does that mean I have to accept a lying answer from the witness when there’s evidence available to the prosecution to show it to be a lie and they refuse to give it to us.”
But Mr Birmingham accused him of engaging in a “piece of theatre” and claimed he was being accused of trying to suppress evidence.
Insisting this was totally untrue he said: “If we were guilty of that I and my colleagues should face being disbarred.”
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