Man convicted of terrorism financing led ‘unremarkable’ life in Ireland

Arrest came about as result of Ireland joining EU police data-sharing system in March

Abderrahman Yahiaoui  fled to Ireland in 2000. Photograph: Alan Betson

Abderrahman Yahiaoui fled to Ireland in 2000. Photograph: Alan Betson

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An Algerian man convicted of terrorism-related offences in France was living an “unremarkable” life in Dublin for more than two decades before his arrest last week.

Abderrahman Yahiaoui, who is aged in his early 50s, fled to Ireland in 2000, shortly after being prosecuted for facilitating Islamic terrorism in Marseille.

French prosecutors alleged he was associating with Islamic fundamentalist groups in the area and was involved in the financing of terrorist activities during the mid-1990s. Yahiaoui was not accused of being involved in terrorism himself.

He was sentenced in absentia shortly after he fled. A judge imposed a six-year sentence to be served on Yahiaoui’s return.

A European arrest warrant (EAW) was issued by France two years later, following the establishment of the EAW system by the European Union in 2002.

Meanwhile, Yahiaoui adopted the name Yusef Mandani and found a home in Firhouse in Dublin. He also found employment with a courier company where he worked until his arrest last week.

A source said he lived “an unremarkable life” and only came to Garda attention for a small number of minor road traffic matters related to his work.

Yahiaoui’s arrest came about as a result of Ireland joining the Schengen Information System (SIS II) six months ago.

Cross-references

The system automatically cross-references the Garda Pulse system with wanted and missing person notices from other EU police forces. Whenever someone’s name is entered into the Pulse system following an arrest, it automatically cross-references it with a 32-country database.

However, Yahiaoui was not detected as a result of an arrest. Instead his capture came about as a result of a “desktop exercise” to track down any EAW subjects who might be resident in Ireland, a source said.

As part of this process, his name came up as possibly being resident in Ireland. Gardaí from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations (NBCI) carried out further checks, including surveillance, and confirmed Yahiaoui was living here under a pseudonym.

A team from the Garda Extradition Unit arrested him last Friday in Tallaght and brought him before the High Court.

The case was adjourned to Wednesday where Mr Justice Paul Burns heard Yahiaoui was too ill to attend. He adjourned the case until September 23rd when Yahiaoui is expected to apply for bail. It is understood he intends to challenge his extradition to France.

Had Yahiaoui been living in any other EU country except the United Kingdom and Ireland, it is likely he would have been arrested far sooner. However, he was able to remain undetected here as Ireland was not a member of SIS II until March.

Vindication

The operation is seen by officials as a vindication of membership of system. In the six months of operation, SIS II has led to 126 extradition arrests here for offences including sexual assault and the prostitution of minors, the Department of Justice said. This is almost double the number for the same six-month period in the past two years.

Membership has also led to the arrest of suspects overseas who are wanted by the Garda. These include an Italian man who fled Ireland after being accused of raping a young male in 2019. He returned to Italy where he is believed to have interacted with children at sports camps. He was arrested last May, 13 days after the Irish SIS Alert was created.

The system was praised by Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. “The successes of SIS II have already been many and the benefits of the system to the State and policing in Ireland for the benefit of all citizens cannot be overstated,” Mr Harris said.