IRA Implicated in N. Korea Counterfeit Plot

A leader of the Official Irish Republican Army (search) has been indicted in the United States on charges he conspired with North Korea (search) to circulate millions of dollars in phony U.S. currency, prosecutors said.

The indictment of Sean Garland, 71, and six other men by a federal grand jury in Washington marks the first time in a 16-year investigation that the government has alleged in court documents that North Korea plays a major role in counterfeiting $100 bills, known as Supernotes.

Garland was arrested Friday in Belfast, Northern Ireland (search), where he was attending a conference of the Irish Workers' Party. Garland is the party's president. The party is the political wing of the Official Irish Republican Army, which took its name after a split with the Provisional IRA, which had grown into the dominant anti-British paramilitary force.

The indictment was returned May 19 and unsealed following Garland's arrest.

The United States is seeking to extradite Garland. He pleaded innocent to the charges at a court appearance in Belfast and has been released on bail.

The high-quality fake $100 bills were made in North Korea, at the government's direction and carried around the world by government officials, the indictment said.

Investigators have long believed North Korea was the source of the counterfeit money, which first entered circulation in 1989. When U.S. authorities broke up an international smuggling ring in August, officials said that the $4.4 million in counterfeit money seized at the time appeared to have come from North Korea.

Garland, working with the other defendants, purchased, transported and resold up to $1 million worth of the phony currency between 1997 and 2000 and also worked to conceal North Korea's role in the enterprise, the indictment said. The bills were put into circulation in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, it said.

The others charged in the indictment were: Christopher John Corcoran, 57, of Dublin, Ireland; David Levin, 39, of Birmingham and London, England; Hugh Todd, 68, of South Africa; Terence "Terry" Silcock, 50, Mark Adderley, 47, and Alan Jones, 48, all of Birmingham.

Prosecutors are seeking their arrest and extradition, said Kenneth Wainstein, the U.S. Attorney in Washington.

All the defendants face maximum prison sentences of five years and fines of $250,000 if convicted.