Libel claim over link to £26m bank raid settled

 

THE SUNDAY World has apologised before the High Court to a businesswoman who sued it for libel over articles related to the laundering of the proceeds of the IRA’s £26.5 million Northern Bank robbery in 2004.

The apology, in which the newspaper said it acknowledged Kathryn Nelson “is a person of the highest integrity”, was read yesterday as part of a settlement of the action by Ms Nelson, who is also to receive an undisclosed sum.

The settlement was reached just after 5pm after the jury had been out for more than an hour considering their verdict. The jury was then called in to be informed the case had been settled.

Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said this was “most unusual”, and the first time in her experience a settlement of a case was achieved while the jury was deliberating.

Eoin McCullough, for the Sunday World read an apology to the court. It stated: “The Sunday World published an article on its front page in February 2005 concerning the laundering of the proceeds of the Northern Bank robbery, in which the Provisional IRA had stolen Stg 26.5 million.

“Reference was made in the article to Kathryn Nelson and the activities of other individuals who had travelled to Sofia in Bulgaria. It was suggested that the purpose of the trip was to disperse the proceeds of the robbery.

“We wish to make it abundantly clear that Ms Nelson had no involvement in any criminal or unlawful activity. We wish to acknowledge that Ms Nelson is a person of the highest integrity. We unreservedly apologise for any suggestion to the contrary contained in the article.”

Ms Nelson (61), Kyleeva, Huginstown, Co Kilkenny, had sued over a number of articles published in the Sunday World on February 27th, 2005. These included a front-page article headlined “Busted” with the sub-heading “Flynn’s female pal quizzed for hours by cops in Provo money laundering probe”, accompanied by a large photo of her.

Related articles were published over four pages under the strap line “The SF/IRA crime machine” and included a headline “Phil Flynn, his close female pal and the dodgy Cork financier”. The articles referred to Ms Nelson being arrested and questioned by gardaí in February 2005 before being released without charge.

Ms Nelson claimed the articles wrongly meant she was involved in laundering the robbery proceeds. As a result of their publication, her life was ruined and she could no longer do her work as a diplomatic liaison officer, she claimed.

The Sunday World denied libel and denied the articles would give the average reader the impression Ms Nelson was involved in “cleaning” proceeds of the bank robbery.After the settlement, Ms Nelson said she was glad the case was over but was “still angry” about the articles. Ireland needs a press commission, she said.