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July 18, 2013

Bulger trial: Agent details Gloucester gun run to IRA

BOSTON — A former U.S. customs agent says that a man who James “Whitey” Bulger, 83, is accused of murdering was cooperating with law enforcement before he disappeared in 1984.

Bulger is accused of shooting John McIntyre, a crewman on the Gloucester-based swordfishing vessel Valhalla after learning that he was talking to authorities.

Donald DeFago, 64, now a private eye in the South, testified at Bulger’s racketeering trial Wednesday that McIntyre described drug smuggling and a failed attempt to ship weapons to the Irish Republican Army from Gloucester.

In 1984, DeFago said he was part of organized crime task face targeting reputed Irish mob boss Joseph Murray Jr. of Charlestown. He detailed in court Wednesday how through surveillance officials learned Murray planned a trip to Amsterdam to buy a large amount of hashish with McIntyre.

In September that year, DeFago said US Customs agents learned that Irish authorities had seized 7 1/2 tons of of automatic rifles, submachines guns and hand grenades worth $1 million from a ship there. The weapons, destined for the Irish Republic Army, had been off-loaded at sea from the Valhalla, which was was in international waters and could not be stopped. The vessel headed back out to sea, albeit under surveillance.

Irish officials said at the time that it was the largest seizure of IRA-bound weapons to date.

The Valhalla was identified on Oct. 16, 1984, when it came into Boston Harbor, DeFago said. McIntyre and the ship’s captain, a Gloucester man, would be questioned by Customs officials as they disembarked. The ship was searched but no arms except for an empty 9-mm shell casing were found.

Several days later McIntyre was arrested on a drunken driving charge in Quincy and mentioned drug runs. DeFago said he then questioned McIntyre during one interview with an FBI agent who was friendly with Bulger buddy John Connolly, a corrupt FBI agent.

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