Police stated on Saturday that a man apprehended by detectives probing the hijacking and placement of a suspect device in a van that targeted Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney earlier this year in Northern Ireland was charged with firearms offenses.
On March 25, two men allegedly kidnapped the van and told the driver to travel to Belfast for a peace-building event where Coveney was speaking. Officials escorted Coveney off the stage and drove him away shortly. Later, the device was shown to be a hoax.
Police said on Saturday that detectives from the terrorism investigation unit had charged the man with possession of a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances, possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a handgun without a certificate, and possession of ammunition without a certificate.
The 46-year-old man, who was arrested on Wednesday in relation to the bomb hoax, is due to appear in court later on Saturday, police said.
He was the second person charged in relation to the incident after another man was charged in March with preparation of terrorist acts, hijacking and the placing of an article causing a bomb hoax.
The UVF were among the loyalist militant groups who last year temporarily withdrew their support for a 1998 peace deal, in protest at the trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom created by Britain’s exit from the European Union.
A small group of militant groups remain active and carry out occasional attacks, but their capacity is tiny relative to during the Troubles, the 30-year conflict between Irish nationalists seeking unification with the Irish Republic and the British Army, and pro-British loyalists determined to keep Northern Ireland under British rule.