A MAJOR security operation is being planned across Northern Ireland to ensure next week’s replacement of £240 million worth of notes from the Northern Bank goes smoothly.
Police said a special command room has been set up in Belfast and extra police resources deployed throughout the province to oversee the operation at 95 branches in the wake of last December’s record 26.5m robbery from the bank’s HQ.
Members of the public were also urged today to watch out for criminals trying to exploit the situation as old Northern Bank money is exchanged for notes with a new design.
Police on both sides of the border believe the IRA was behind the heist, which seriously damaged hopes that a power-sharing government could be revived in Northern Ireland this year.
Following the Independent Monitoring Commission’s claim that Sinn Fein leaders with leadership roles in the IRA sanctioned the raid, MPs backed Government moves yesterday to strip Sinn Fein of 400,000 in allowances from the House of Commons.
Two days ago the Northern Bank revealed all 10, 20, 50 and 100 notes would be replaced on Monday with notes with a new logo and different colour. The serial numbers on the notes will also be changed.
Inspector Philip McCullough, a senior PSNI Crime Prevention officer, said today: "Undoubtedly there is an increased risk of crime over the coming weeks as this huge financial and logistical operation swings into effect.
"Police will certainly be playing their part to ensure everything goes according to plan.
"I would urge everyone in the community to exercise the utmost vigilance."
The old Northern Bank money will only be exchanged in banks.
People were also advised not to immediately rush to Northern Bank branches on Monday to have their notes replaced as the operation will run for several weeks.
During the replacement period, old notes can still be used in the normal way.