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US indictment links N. Korea to counterfeiting scheme

WASHINGTON -- A leader of the Official Irish Republican Army has been indicted in the United States on charges that he conspired with North Korea to circulate millions of dollars in phony US currency, prosecutors said.

The indictment of Sean Garland, 71, and six other men by a federal grand jury in Washington marks the first time in a 16-year investigation that the government has alleged in court documents that North Korea plays a major role in counterfeiting $100 bills, known as supernotes.

Garland was arrested Friday in Belfast, where he was attending a conference of the Irish Workers' Party. Garland is the party's president. The party is the political wing of the Official Irish Republican Army, which took its name after a split with the Provisional IRA, which had grown into the dominant anti-British paramilitary force.

The indictment was returned May 19 and unsealed after Garland's arrest.

The United States is seeking to extradite Garland. He pleaded not guilty to the charges at a court appearance in Belfast and has been released on bail.

The high-quality fake $100 bills were made in North Korea, at the government's direction and carried around the world by government officials, the indictment said.

Investigators have long thought North Korea was the source of the counterfeit money, which first entered circulation in 1989. When US authorities broke up an international smuggling ring in August, officials said the $4.4 million in counterfeit money seized at the time seemed to have come from North Korea.

Garland, working with the other defendants, bought, transported, and resold as much as $1 million worth of the phony currency between 1997 and 2000 and worked to conceal North Korea's role in the enterprise, the indictment said.

The bills were put into circulation in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, it said.

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