An Algerian national convicted of terrorism finance in France was living “an unremarkable life” in Dublin for more than two decades before his arrest last week.
The terror suspect was hiding here from European police forces for 20 years. His arrest came about as a result of Ireland joining EU police data-sharing system in March
The man has been named as Abderrahmane Yahiaoui, who is in his early fifties. It is believed that he fled to Ireland in 2000, after being prosecuted in the late 1990s for facilitating Islamic terrorism in Marseille, France.
According to French prosecutors, Yahiaoui was associating with Islamic fundamentalist groups in the area and played a role in financing terrorist activities during the mid-1990s. Yahiaoui was not accused of being directly involved in acts of terrorism himself. He was sentenced in absentia shortly after he escaped France. A judge imposed a six-year sentence to be served on his return to the country.
Following the establishment of the European arrest warrant (EAW) system by the European Union in 2002, a EAW was issued by France two years later for his arrest. In the meantime, Yahiaoiu was living under a false identity – adopting the name Yusef Mandani and found a home in Firhouse in Dublin. He was also employed by a courier company where he worked until he was arrested last week.
According to one source, he lived “an unremarkable life” and only caught the attention of the Garda for a small number of minor road traffic matters related to his work as a courier. His arrest happened as a result of Ireland joining the EU’s Schengen Information System (SIS II) in March.
The police data-sharing system automatically cross-references the Garda Pulse system with wanted and missing person notices from other EU police forces. When an individual’s name is entered into the Pulse system following an arrest, it automatically cross-references it with a 32-country database.
According to reports though, the terror suspect was not discovered because of an arrest, but as a result of a “desktop exercise” to track down any EAW subjects who might be living in Ireland, a source said. Yahiaoui’s name appeared as a possibility of him being resident in Ireland. Following this, Gardaí from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations (NBCI) carried out further checks, including surveillance, and confirmed Yahiaoui was living here under a fake name.
He was finally arrested last Friday in Tallaght by a team from the Garda Extradition Unit who brought him before the High Court.
“A lot of serious police work went into this. The NBCI worked with colleagues in Interpol, French police and other law enforcement agencies.”
However, he did not attend Court, stating that he was too ill. The case was adjourned to Wednesday 23rd September by Mr Justice Paul Burns. Yahiaoui is expected to apply for bail and it is understood he intends to challenge his extradition to France.
It is likely that Yahiaoui would have been arrested much sooner had he been living in any other EU country. He was able to remain undetected here because Ireland was not a member of SIS II until March.
The operation is being perceived by officials as vindication of membership of the SIS II police data-sharing system. In its 6 months of operation in Ireland, the system has led to a total of 126 extradition arrests for serious offences including the prostitution of minors and sexual assault, according to the Department of Justice. This is almost twice the number of arrests for the same six-month timeframe in the past two years.
The system has won praise from Minister of Justice Heather Humphreys and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
“The successes of SIS II have already been many and the benefits of the system to the State and policing in Ireland for the benefit of all citizens cannot be overstated,” Mr Harris said.