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'Prince of promises' Flamboyant Oz crime lord Murray Stewart Riley who ran counterfeiting op with Provos dies

He once was a cop and an Olympic medalist - but later turned international drug trafficker

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Ozzie crime lord Riley ran counterfeiting operations with the Provos in the early 90s while on the run in Northern Ireland

Ozzie crime lord Riley ran counterfeiting operations with the Provos in the early 90s while on the run in Northern Ireland

Ozzie crime lord Riley ran counterfeiting operations with the Provos in the early 90s while on the run in Northern Ireland

A flamboyant Aussie criminal who conspired with the Provisional IRA in a major counterfeiting operation died.

Murray Stewart Riley, a former cop, passed away a few months ago in Queensland, Australia, aged 94, however the news of his death only emerged around Christmas time Down Under.

The copper turned international drug trafficker rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest gangsters in Australia, such as Lenny McPherson, and did business with some of the most notorious mafia figures in the USA, like James 'Jimmy the Weasel' Fratianno and Sal Amarena of the Santos Trafficante family.

Having started his professional life out as a cop, Riley, nicknamed ‘The Prince of Promises’ in the underworld due to his incessant scheming and scamming, later turned to heroin and cannabis smuggling, before getting involved with the Provos in the early 90s, while he was on the run having escaped from an open prison in England where he'd been serving a sentence for trying to defraud British Aerospace to the tune of £40 million.

Riley, who had changed his name at this stage by deed poll to Murray Lee Stewart, found himself a fugitive in Northern Ireland, where he managed to become embedded in Provisional IRA (PIRA) criminal circles.

This was his first physical contact with the PIRA, where he established the trust of the terror and crime gang's leaders, who were encouraged by Riley's reputation and proficiency for smuggling heroin into Australia.

After his dalliance with the PIRA, Riley was recaptured by cops in Kent, England, but escaped from prison again in 1993 before returning to Northern Ireland and re-establishing his links with the Provos.

It is then that he embarked on a multi-million pound counterfeiting operation with the gang in 1993, just one year before the PIRA announced a major ceasefire, which was shattered two years later by the Canary Wharf bombing in London.

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Murray Riley was known as a smooth talker and was well-liked by underworld bosses

Murray Riley was known as a smooth talker and was well-liked by underworld bosses

Murray Riley was known as a smooth talker and was well-liked by underworld bosses

Riley became a police officer in 1943 with the New South Wales Police Force in Australia, but was soon taken under the wing of a group of corrupt police officers.

He even won a bravery award as a police officer and became a detective before leaving in 1962 under a dark cloud, facing a raft of accusations surrounding his discipline.

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Riley, front row, third from left, pictured with the Australian Olympic rowing squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Riley, front row, third from left, pictured with the Australian Olympic rowing squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Riley, front row, third from left, pictured with the Australian Olympic rowing squad at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

Bizarrely, Riley was also a talented rower who won a bronze medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, as well as winning gold medals in the double sculls at the 1950 and 1954 Empire Games and competing in the 1953 Helsinki Olympics.

Upon leaving the police he began working for a poker machine company but was later arrested in New Zealand in 1966 while trying to bribe a police officer and was sentenced to a year's imprisonment as a result.

With the criminal connections he made while working as a serving policeman he soon forged a reputation for himself in the criminal underworld, running poker machine scams in Sydney social and sports clubs

Through his poker machine racket, Riley became an associate of major Aussie underworld figure Lenny McPherson, and soon became one of the biggest names in organised crime in Australia, coming under intense scrutiny from the authorities who were desperate to see Riley, and McPherson, locked up.

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Sydney's 'Mr Big', crime boss and associate of Riley, Lenny McPherson

Sydney's 'Mr Big', crime boss and associate of Riley, Lenny McPherson

Sydney's 'Mr Big', crime boss and associate of Riley, Lenny McPherson

With another associate, Mick Moylan, Riley began to import heroin to Australia, travelling to the USA to meet with mafia bosses like Amarena and Fratianno who used their established connections to secure smuggling routes for Riley into major Australian cities like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

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Mafia boss and Riley associate, Sal Amarena

Mafia boss and Riley associate, Sal Amarena

Mafia boss and Riley associate, Sal Amarena

While in the USA, Riley was also known to make strong alliances with the Teamsters, the American union movement which spawned corrupt leader and fabled gangster figure Jimmy Hoffa, who had strong links with the Mafia and was neck deep in organised crime.

When Moylan's drug syndicate collapsed and many of the leaders of the gang were forced to flee overseas, Riley, like in a script from a Hollywood gangster movie, took over the operation.

He then forged relationships with associates of Fratianno who were in Australia, including Harry Wainwright, an on-the-run American lawyer, who had set up a new life in Australia, and introduced Riley to Michael Hand, who set up the notorious Nugan Hand Bank which was used as the go-to bank for corrupt politicians, arms dealers, and of course, Australia's crime godfathers.

Riley later became instrumental in the opening of Nugan Hand branches across Asia, which laundered drug money and money from weapons deals before it collapsed in 1980.

It was this bank that Riley used in 1976 to secure the money to bring his first haul of heroin into Brisbane in a suitcase which had a secret compartment.

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Murray Riley, on the right, training for the Olympics at Sydney Rowing Club

Murray Riley, on the right, training for the Olympics at Sydney Rowing Club

Murray Riley, on the right, training for the Olympics at Sydney Rowing Club

In 1978 however, Riley was arrested after a failed attempt to smuggle multiple tonnes of cannabis into Australia from Thailand. When a boat containing the cannabis developed engine problems the cargo was stashed in another boat which had run aground on a reef.

The Australian authorities caught wind of the operation through informants, and when another yacht was sent out to retrieve the cannabis stash, and return to the east coast of Australia, the cops were waiting.

Riley, only made aware of the police sting after the yacht’s crew were arrested, managed to evade the cops for three weeks but was eventually detained in Adelaide. He later pleaded guilty to transporting cannabis and was jailed for 10 years.

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An Australian police surveillance pic of crime lord Murray Riley

An Australian police surveillance pic of crime lord Murray Riley

An Australian police surveillance pic of crime lord Murray Riley

Just like his imprisoned mafia pals did in the USA, Riley enjoyed a relatively cushy stay in Long Bay Jail, New South Wales, where he was held in the more comfortable remand section.

There were even reports the prison guards allowed Riley to leave the jail willy-nilly on excursions to the outside world and that he and other gangland figures serving time in the remand wing of the prison would frequently be allowed to drink beer and their cells.

While he was there, another seven years were added to his bird when he was convicted of trying to defraud American Express for over a quarter of a million dollars as well as other offences.

After he was released in 1984 he attempted to continue to ply his trade as a drug smuggler, flying heroin from Papua and New Guinea to Australia, but was relatively unsuccessful.

In 1991, having moved to Britain, Riley was convicted of trying to defraud British aerospace of £40 million, and was sentenced to five years in jail, spending his time in Spring Hill Prison, Aylesbury, an open prison which he simply walked out of in 1991. The prison's regimen was so relaxed, it wasn't even noted that he had escaped for seven weeks.

After his second escape and the PIRA counterfeiting scheme, Riley moved to Hong Kong where he settled and kept a relatively low profile, before resettling in Australia.

When he died, Riley was still technically on the run from the British authorities.

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