Northern Ireland

Court told blackmail accused is 'criminal gang leader'

Police believe a man charged with blackmail is the leader of an organised crime gang, a court has heard.

Christopher Joseph Notarantonio, from Avoca Close in west Belfast, appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court accused of two counts of blackmail.

Police objected to bail, claiming there was a risk the 39-year-old would interfere with witnesses.

He was remanded in custody along with his co-accused, 38-year-old William Barker from Filbert Drive in Dunmurry.

Mr Barker, who was also charged with two counts of blackmail, did not make an application for bail.

A lawyer for Christopher Notarantonio claimed the police had "absolutely no evidence" linking the accused to the blackmail, and argued that the case against him was circumstantial.

A detective sergeant told the court there were two other suspects who police wanted to speak to, and said they were concerned about the alleged victim, who he said was a young businessman.

The district judge refused Mr Notarantonio's bail application and both men were remanded in custody for four weeks.

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