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‘Machinery racketeer’ Border bandit Damien McPhilips handed five years' jail for crane and trailer thefts

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Damien McPhillips (right), who was a close pal of 'Dublin Jimmy' (left), has been jailed for five years

Damien McPhillips (right), who was a close pal of 'Dublin Jimmy' (left), has been jailed for five years

Damien McPhillips (right), who was a close pal of 'Dublin Jimmy' (left), has been jailed for five years

A major criminal who was had close links to notorious crimelord Cyril ‘Dublin Jimmy’ McGuinness has been sentenced to five years in jail in his absence in Belgium over a million-euro-series of crane, excavator and trailer thefts.

‘Machinery racketeer’ Damien McPhillips (55) from Co Monaghan was convicted of being part of a four person gang involved in the theft of the high value equipment across West Flanders between September 30, 2016 and February 28, 2018.

Various types of cranes, excavators and trailers were stolen during the thefts before being shipped across the Channel to the UK for resale.

McPhillips was alleged by prosecutors to have been one of the pivotal figures in the business and being involved in forming a criminal gang.

A very close associate of his was jailed for five years and a woman known to him was handed a three year sentence by the court in the city of Veurne.

Belgian authorities are expected to issue European Arrest Warrants for the three Irish people who are understood to be currently based in the UK.

A 34-year-old Irishman, Patrick Duffy, who was arrested in Sweden and extradited back to Belgium was jailed for three years for his role in the plot.

McPhillips, was previously jailed for two years in 2014 for possession of a stolen truck.

During the trial he was described as a ‘machinery racketeer.’

He was also one of a number of people sentenced in connection with a multi million machinery theft racket run by Cyril McGuinness in the noughties.

Police in Bruges launched Operation Secund with gardai in 2007 after receiving a tip-off that Irish smugglers, led by McGuinness, were stealing machinery from farms across Belgium.

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Cyril McGuinness aka "Dublin Jimmy" was a close associate of Damien McPhillips

Cyril McGuinness aka "Dublin Jimmy" was a close associate of Damien McPhillips

Cyril McGuinness aka "Dublin Jimmy" was a close associate of Damien McPhillips

The haul included a €480,000 cement pumping truck, a €109,000 bulk tanker, €54,000 worth of trailers and €72,000 in tractors.

They were later resprayed and shipped to Rosslare before being sold to unsuspecting farmers across Ireland, the north and the UK.

Proceeds from the sale of the heavy plant machinery were later placed in bogus bank accounts.

McPhillips was jailed for four years for his role in the racket while McGuiness was extradited by military helicopter to Belgium to serve a seven year sentence in 2009 for running the €3.4million scam.

McGuinness was, however, freed just two years later after his legal team successfully appealed his sentence after establishing a loop-hole in his warrant in Belgium.

Police believe it was after he returned to Fermanagh from his prison stint in Belgium that McGuiness was recruited by a “pay master” to wage a campaign of intimidation against the Quinn group.

His litany of terror included fire bombings, death threats and arson attacks culminating in the abduction and kidnapping of Lunney on September 17 2019.

The 50-year-old was abducted outside his home near Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, and taken to a horsebox across the border, where he was savagely beaten.

His attackers broke his leg, sliced his fingernails and face with a Stanley knife, carved QIH on his chest, and doused the father-of-six in bleach.

The attack was the most serious in a five-year campaign of intimidation targeting the companies and directors that now control the business portfolio built up by fallen tycoon Sean Quinn, once Ireland’s richest man.

In the wake of the Lunney abduction McGuiness fled to Derbyshire, England.

But he died suddenly following a police raid on the Derbyshire bolthole on November 8th of last year.

Police said McGuiness smoked three cigarettes and drank a cup of tea while sitting on a sofa following his arrest at around 7am before collapsing 90 minutes later.

Police called an ambulance and attempted resuscitation immediately, but the 54-year-old died almost three hours after his arrest.

The raid was part of a co-ordinated series of search operations, mainly focused on the Irish border area, linked to the brutal attack on Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) director Kevin Lunney in September.

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