April 24th, 2014

Ousted UVF chiefs told to hand back cash by HQ

Northern IrelandBy Hugh Jordan
Tattooed UVF boss Darren 'Chink' O'Neill
Tattooed UVF boss Darren 'Chink' O'Neill
UVF commander Paul Gray has been told to pay back cash
UVF commander Paul Gray has been told to pay back cash

Ousted terror chief Paul Gray and his side-kick Darren ‘Chink’ O’Neill have stashed a £250,000 fortune in secret bank accounts south of the border.

The disgraced pair, court-martialled and kicked out of the north Antrim UVF this week, have been under investigation by paramilitary bosses following allegations they have been lining their own pockets in a series of money making scams.

The Sunday World understands that disgraced roly poly commander Gray and tattooed O’Neill – pictured here for the first time –  have been ordered to pay the cash back, or face the consequences.

There is anger among UVF members in Ballymena that the pair,  Gray in particular,  have so far escaped any serious sanction for ‘stealing’ the organisation’s money. 

It is understood, however, that the leadership is keen to give them time to come up with proposals to repay the money.

Friends of the disgraced gangsters say they are desperate to avoid having to give back their secret southern stash, and are hoping to strike a deal to repay a much smaller amount.

The pair, pictured here, had been the focus of major investigation for months, as the UVF leadership attempted to unravel a complex web of stolen money and weapons tightly controlled by the chunky terror twins. 

Gray and O’Neill are   believed to have been major players in the lucrative Ballymena drugs market for years.

And the finger of suspicion was also pointed at tubby pair Gray and O’Neill over their close association with drugs dealer and career criminal Noel Simon Johnston.

This latest probe into Paul Gray’s finances started when UVF members from Coleraine discovered £4,000 was missing from Somme Association coffers. And when they asked Gray to account for this, he told them it was none of their business. 

The  matter was referred to the leadership in Belfast who immediately ordered an investigation.

In recent years both Gray and O’Neill have survived several attempts to oust them from the hardline loyalist terror group. Last year, O’Neill temporarily assumed control of the UVF in Ballymena following Gray’s suspension.

But the axe swiftly fell on both their necks last week when they were unceremoniously booted out of the  organisation following a court martial. 

As far as the Shankill based UVF leadership is concerned, the race is now on to find the fortune amassed by Gray and O’Neill and force them to hand it over.

Gray and O’Neill have been ripping off the UVF for some time. Well placed sources last night told the Sunday World that Gray had been running a loan sharking operation and controlled a  number of drug dealers in the area.

A team of senior UVF personnel based on Belfast’s Shankill Road arrived at Gray’s pub in Ballymena last week accompanied by a leading member of the Progressive Unionist Party to tell them they were finished. A shock Gray ordered  customers to leave the bar.

Local UVF members in Ballymena were rounded up and told that if they were prepared to spill the beans on the nefarious activities of Gray and O’Neill, then they would have nothing to fear from the changes being implemented to help clean up the UVF’s image in mid and north Antrim.

However, they were also warned that if they held anything back which later emerged, then they would suffer the consequences.

“A lot of young loyalists in Ballymena are now taking the opportunity to get their own back on Paul Gray,” said one local source.

One associate believed to have shopped his former partner in crime was Ballymena housebreaker xxxxxJames Graham.

They were operating a housebreaking and guns scam which is believed to have netted more than £100,000 in the space of a few months.

Graham targeted householders likely to have cash in their homes. People known to have gun licenses including police officers have also been the target of the highly skilled gang 'employed’ by Gray.

Graham 25, has boasted that he has stolen  more than £200k breaking and entering houses across north Antrim and Ballymena. The homes of people who own and run Chinese takeaways were a favourite target as they often take the night’s takings with them.

On one occasion a mind boggling £50,000 was stolen in a single house raid.

Graham commanded a 10 per cent slice of the haul while the rest was handed to Gray, who in turn was supposed to hand it over to UVF headquarters.  The pair fell out and it is suspected Graham may have blown the whistle on Gray and O’Neill’s racket.

“He knows everything about Gray’s operation; he stole all the money and as far as he was concerned Gray was paying into the Shankill. He knows exactly how much Gray has kept for himself.”

Sources have told us he also stole guns to order and on one occasion personally delivered a dozen handguns and rifles to the UVF on the Shankill. PSNI issue Glock pistols are among the array of guns stolen by the 25-year-old and his gang.

The Sunday World has been told that the UVF leadership also had major concerns over Paul Gray’s close association and friendship with crook Noel Simon Johnston – a convicted drugs dealer and major criminal – who was recently targeted by the Assets Recovery Agency which seized many of his considerable assets.

The Sunday World can reveal how Paul Gray and Darren ‘Chink’ O’Neill secretly stashed tens of thousands of pounds in  Bank of Ireland accounts in the Republic.

However, in recent years the flow of cash to the Shankill began to dry up, causing the UVF leader to rightly assume Gray was using the organisation’s name to feather his own nest.  

Gray and O’Neill were witnessed as recently as last week lodging cash in a Ballymena branch of the Bank of Ireland.

Fifty year-old Gray, is a full cousin of murdered UDA ‘Brigadier’ Jim ‘Doris Day’ Gray. He came to prominence in Ballymena in the late 1990s as a ruthless thug involved in armed robbery and drugs dealing – an activity for which he received a ‘punishment’ beating at the hands of the UVF. 

But as soon as he recovered from his injuries, he joined the UVF and eventually took control of the organisation Ballymena and north Antrim area.

Gray’s trusted buddy, Darren ‘Chink’ O’Neill is unique among UVF men, in that he was never allowed to take part in any military operations for fear that his heavily tattooed body would mean that he could be easily identified.

 He is known for his love of snakes, spiders and lizards and he has appeared on TV programmes with them.

UVF veteran Thomas ‘Tam’ Balmer – who had also previously been dismissed from the organisation – has been reinstated as stand-in UVF Commander in Ballymena as the organisation’s leadership ponders on how best to proceed in the wake of Gray and O’Neill’s departure.

In 1994, Balmer was convicted of shooting his young girlfriend dead during a heaving boozing session. 

Balmer and Siobhan Dickson had been drinking in Ballymena and later went back with friends to Balmer’s home at Crosskeys, where more drink was consumed.

Around 4.00am, Balmer produced a gun from a drawer and pulled the trigger while it was still pointing a the young woman. The bullet hit her on the neck and head and she died at the scene. 

Balmer was sentenced to three years in prison after he was convicted of her manslaughter. The sentence was later reduced to 18 months on appeal.

It’s not the first time Gray has run into trouble with the UVF leadership. Five years ago he was stood down after it emerged he was using UVF money to buy a bar and that he was pocketing money extorted from businesses in the town. 

He is even alleged to have spent £3,000 in stolen money to pay for a boob job for his then girlfriend.