herald

Sunday 24 September 2017

Fianna Fail politician 'gave cash to criminals after online blackmail'

Tragic Tyrone teen Ronan Hughes was blackmailed
Tragic Tyrone teen Ronan Hughes was blackmailed

A long-serving Fianna Fail politician has become the victim of a "honeytrap" blackmail plot, which has led him to pay out money to criminals.

It has emerged that the well-known politician was "set-up" after a video allegedly showing him in a "compromising position" was made available to a blackmailing gang.

The video was sent from the politician's private social media account to an individual who he had been chatting to online.

While the politician thought he was in a private exchange with a woman, it has since emerged he was subjected to a sinister plot to blackmail him.

It is understood that gardai received a complaint about the incident in recent days.

The Herald understands that the man, who is widely respected in political circles, agreed to hand over a sum of cash to his alleged blackmailers.

However, the blackmailers are understood to have threatened to release the video unless he made further payments.

Sources say the experience has caused the politician significant stress and upset and that he is liaising with gardai.

"It's an extremely upsetting situation for him and his family. And it has had a significant impact on him financially," said one well-placed source.

"The matter is deeply personal and he is trying to deal with it while still ensuring he can focus on his job."

The politician's situation has been brought to the attention of Fianna Fail headquarters and party leader Micheal Martin.

However, a party spokesperson declined to comment when asked about the case.

The politician at the centre of the incident did not respond to calls last night.

This case is the latest example of the disturbing internet phenomenon known as "catfishing", in which a person is lured into a relationship by someone using a false identity.

Tricked

A Romanian man, who blackmailed a Co Tyrone teenager in a similar plot, was sentenced to four years in prison last month.

Iulian Enache (31) pleaded guilty in court in Timisoara, Romania, to blackmailing Coalisland teenager Ronan Hughes via webcam two years ago.

Although he was sentenced to four years, he will serve three under provisions made in Romanian law and will be released in October 2019, taking into account time already served.

Ronan (17) took his own life after being tricked into posting images on the internet.

In the case of Enache, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was able to work with Romanian police and Europol to secure a conviction.

In the aftermath of that case, it emerged that an Irish woman, whose husband took his own life after he was blackmailed using a compromising video, revealed that gardai tracked down his tormentors to the Ivory Coast.

The father, from the east of the country, was conned into producing a video of himself performing a sex act on camera and sending it to someone who had befriended him on Facebook.

The man's heartbroken wife later spoke about the dangers of online honeytraps.

"I still see this on Facebook, it is still happening. And people just really, really need to be 100pc careful. They are targeting everyone all the time and they do not seem to discriminate," she said in an interview with the Herald.

If you need someone to talk to about issues in this article, call Samaritans on 116 123.

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