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Thanks to a tip from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Gardaí arrested three men who had allegedly purchased Semtex, a versatile plastic explosive, through the notorious Alphabay darknet marketplace. The FBI tip gave the Gardaí enough time to create a fake package and prevent the three suspected IRA members from receiving a package of one of the more day dangerous items one could have legitimately purchased on the darknet.
All three men, at a recent hearing in a Dublin court, denied ever ordering an explosive device from an Alphabay vendor or a vendor on any darknet market. The trio pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful organisation (the Irish Republican Army) at a prior court appearance. The most recent appearance at the Special Criminal Court revealed more about the case than authorities had previously shared with the public.
According to the court—through information provided by the Gardaí—one of the three suspected IRA members spent hours on the darknet in search of an explosive. Not only did the user make it clear to other users that he was in search of an explosive, but he also caught the attention of the FBI. As reflected in dozens of DeepDotWeb articles on the topic, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies pay special attention to immediately dangerous darknet activity. This, unsurprisingly, often includes firearms, explosives, and substances intended to kill (i.e., poisons).
The suspected IRA members included Donal O Ceallaigh, 33, of Sandymount; James Geraghty, 61, of Dolphin’s Barn; and Jonathan Hawthorn, 45, of Ballinteer. One of the men had allegedly created an Alphabay account under the name “Meat Cleaver,” said an FBI agent who had been working in an undercover capacity on Alphabay at the time. Meat Cleaver allegedly sent the undercover FBI agent a message inquiring about Semtex and similar explosives.
At some point after the exchange between Meat Cleaver and the undercover FBI agent, the FBI learned that someone—possibly Meat Cleaver—had provided a vendor with Geraghty’s home address. The person who provided the address had planned asked the vendor to ship an unknown amount or weight of the explosive.
After receiving word from the FBI, the Gardaí had enough time to create a so-called “mock-up package” not dissimilar to the packages of fake drugs used in drug operations. On September 14, 2016, the Gardaí conducted a controlled delivery. An officer, disguised as a DHL mail courier, delivered the package to the Geraghty address. Geraghty signed for the package and returned to his house.
The Gardaí watch all three suspects for several hours after the package delivery. After gathering evidence via observation, the authorities moved in and made their arrest. None of the men, according to information recently revealed in court, have complied or answered questions for the authorities.