Murder gang leader and man who ran serious crime group convicted

The ring-leader of a murder gang who conspired to shoot dead two well-known loyalist figures and a man who ran a major serious organised crime group were convicted this week.

This marked the culmination of two major Police Scotland investigations - Operation Hairsplitter.

The case demonstrated how organised criminals motivated by profit and those who intended to commit acts of violence in the name of dissident republican terrorism were prepared to work together to meet their individual goals.

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The men convicted were: Anton Duffy, from Donegal, who was the ring-leader of an unaffiliated active service unit inspired by dissident republicanism. In 2010, Duffy was convicted of brandishing a loaded handgun in a Glasgow nightclub during a dispute with a bouncer.

And Craig Convery, of Renfrewshire, who ran a major serious organised crime group responsible for the widespread distribution of drugs and guns across Scotland.

Operation Hairsplitter began in September 2012 to investigate an attempt to procure firearms by a gang led by Duffy, who held sympathies towards dissident republicanism.

Duffy and his associates were the focus of the inquiry as they embarked on the planning and preparation to murder two men with loyalist paramilitary involvement. They established the movements of their intended targets and were in the process of acquiring firearms including an AK47 to carry out the act.

Duffy and co-accused Paul Sands planned to carry out the double murder whilst on home leave from prison with Martin Hughes.

Duffy, Sands and Martin Hughes were arrested in October 2013 in a co-ordinated operation involving firearms officers in Glasgow and Ayrshire.

They were charged under the Terrorism Act 2006 and conspiracy to murder.

In January 2014, executive action led to the arrests of Craig Convery and his associate Gordon Brown charged with directing serious organised crime.

Detective Superintendent Andy Gunn, of the Specialist Crime Division, who led Operation Hairsplitter, said:

“Anton Duffy was the main instigator of the plot to kill two men.

“He is a dangerous man who was determined to see this conspiracy through to its conclusion. I have no doubt that were it not for the intervention of the authorities in an operation led by Police Scotland, we would have been left investigating a double murder in an act of terrorism carried out in our communities.

“The streets of Scotland are safer now that he, Sands, Hughes, Brown and Convery have been convicted today. It brings two complex and challenging Police Scotland investigations to a successful conclusion.”