Charges Dropped Against Men in 2004 Northern Bank Heist

Prosecutors dropped charges Wednesday against two men accused of involvement in a massive 2004 robbery of the Northern Bank's central vault in Belfast.

State prosecutors said detectives' dossiers of evidence against the two men were inadequate to secure convictions.

British, Irish and international authorities blamed the outlawed Irish Republican Army for committing the Dec. 20, 2004, raid on the Northern Bank, when 26.5 million pounds (US$50 million, euro38 million) was stolen - the second-largest cash theft in British history.

The IRA denied involvement, nobody has been convicted and police have failed to find most of the missing millions. Now, two of the police's three suspects have walked free.

Dominic McEvoy, 23, was charged with holding a Northern Bank official and his wife hostage and possessing a firearm. Martin McAliskey, 42, was charged with making false statements to police about the purchase, possession and sale of a van used to carry off the cash.

Chief Constable Hugh Orde, commander of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said the dismissal of charges against both men was disappointing, but his detectives still hoped to bring charges against others suspected of involvement.

"We remain determined to solve it. Today is a setback, it would be fair to say," Orde said during a radio interview on British Broadcasting Corp. radio in Belfast. "But we will continue to take this forward."

Still facing a charge of robbery is Northern Bank official Chris Ward, who was shift supervisor at the bank building on the night of the raid.

Ward, 25, has admitted helping the robbers, but insists he was forced to do so because part of the gang was holding his family hostage and threatening to kill them unless he cooperated.

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