Shankill pub run by daughter of loyalist Jim Spence attacked by gang on orders of Mo Courtney
The incident is being seen as an attempt by Courtney to expand his empire
A pub run by the daughter of loyalist chief Jim Spence was attacked by 20 masked men on the orders of drug lord Mo Courtney, the Sunday World can reveal.
Ex-UFF chief Courtney is believed have been behind the sinister attack on Friday night which saw the Berlin Bar in the loyalist heartland smashed up.
The incident happened shortly after 7pm when a mob armed with baseball bats and hammers entered the iconic pub and went on a wrecking spree.
Customers and staff were ordered out while windows, furniture, mirrors, pictures, glasses and bottles were all smashed.
No one was hurt during the incident which lasted almost half an hour. There was no stand-off and the gang left unchallenged despite a small crowd gathering outside.
It comes after weeks of rising tensions on the Shankill, with a number of people put out of the area and others warned about their involvement in the drugs trade.
The incident is being seen as an attempt by Courtney to expand his empire.
The rival UVF has all but quit the drug trade on the road and Courtney sees a chance to extend his authority in the area.
The bar is owned and run by Mark Pollock and his wife Becky.
Ms Spence is the daughter of alleged UDA commander Jim Spence and has no involvement in crime or paramilitary activity.
Pollock has no paramilitary connections but has a conviction for fuel laundering. doubt
Loyalist sources last night told the Sunday World that Courtney was behind the attack, and cast doubt on rumours that alleged West Belfast UDA brigadier Matt Kincaid was aware of the planned attack in advance.
“This is about drugs pure and simple,” said our source. “It has nothing to do with loyalism.” Courtney has emerged from a tense few months with his position at the top of the heap strengthened.
He remains under threat from a Dublin-based organised crime gang after he stole their guns from a criminal mob in the east of the city.
It forced him and his second in command into hiding. On one occasion a car load of Dublin criminals was cruising the Shankill looking for him as they vowed revenge.
It triggered alarm in the paramilitary leadership of both the UDA and UVF and resulted in a number of people being hit with fines – one believed to be as much as £100,000 – and warned not to sell drugs on the Shankill.
Others were warned to break off all contact with southern-based gangs.
It is believed Friday night’s attack was a further warning to the individual hit with the £100k levy.
It is not clear if there will be retaliation as the bar has no obvious paramilitary connections and in recent months the UVF has moved to distance itself from the drugs trade.
Sources on the Shankill say the organisation is in “no way’’ involved in the sale of illegal drugs.
“Courtney is sending out a warning that he is the top dog, he is the major drug dealer on the Shankill and he won’t let anyone stand in his way,” a source said.
Last night police issued an appeal for information about the attack.
Inspector Hamilton said: “At approximately 7.15pm we received a report that around 20 masked men, some armed with baseball bats, had entered the bar.
“They proceeded to smash a number of windows and TVs and caused extensive damage to the interior of the premises before leaving.
“Luckily no one was injured during the incident.
The PSNI confirmed a 59-year-old man was arrested on Sunday following the incident.
Detective Chief Inspector Avine Kelly said: “Officers conducted searches at two houses in the Shankill area on Saturday evening resulting in the arrest of a 59 year old man and the recovery of a number of items including cash, paramilitary related paraphernalia and a small quantity of suspected class B drugs.
“The man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and burglary and remains in custody at this time.”
The PSNI have asked anyone who may have information that could assist with their ongoing enquiries to contact them via 101.
Mark Pollock was one of a nine-man gang convicted of fuel laundering in 2017 after a five-year operation by customs officers.
In a crime worth over £2.6 million in lost duty and taxes, the gang, headed by Robert Clarke the owner of Clarke Fuels based on the Shankill Road, and Pollock, laundered millions of litres of red diesel for sale as legitimate road fuel to unsuspecting motorists.
Clarke, from Dundrod Road, Crumlin, and Pollock from Lyndhurst Grove, Belfast, were jailed when they appeared at Laganside Crown Court in 2017.
HMRC began investigating the gang in 2010 and over the next two years traced their illegal laundering activities, false paperwork trails and fuel distribution network, revealing a sophisticated organised crime network.
As part of the investigation into the gang HMRC officers carried out searches of 13 commercial and private premises in June 2011, seizing more than £285,000 in cash and 74,000 litres of fuel.
The investigation uncovered how Clarke had used his business to buy red diesel, which was then laundered. Pollock oversaw the fraud, working with others to launder the fuel, dispose of the waste and hide the fraud behind a false paper trail.
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