Northern Ireland

£1m drug seizure in Belfast - three in court

Scales of justice
Image caption Three men have been remanded in custody charged in connection with the £1m seizure.

Three men have been remanded in custody charged in connection with a £1m drugs seizure in Belfast.

A court heard the suspects were detained after two cars and a lorry were stopped on Saturday.

Two large bags containing 26kg of suspected herbal cannabis with a street value of up to £520,000 were found.

Subsequent searches of a flat located quantities of cocaine, ecstasy tablets, amphetamines and cannabis resin with a similar value.

'Mastermind'

Around £15,000 in cash was also seized from the property.

Belfast Magistrates Court heard Ryan Black, 27, of Winchester Road in Carryduff described as "mastermind" of the alleged gang.

He faces a total of 14 charges, including possession of Class A and Class B drugs with intent to supply, being concerned in the supply of cocaine and cannabis, and having criminal property.

His co-accused James Turley, 51, of Ballymore Road, Tandragee, and Mark Mulholland, 25, of Glenariff Crescent, Ballymena, are both charged with possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

Mr Turley faces a further count of possessing criminal property while Mr Mulholland is accused of transferring criminal property.

The court was told two people wanted in connection with the investigation are still at large.

A detective said that during the alleged handover in a city industrial estate Mulholland put two bags of cannabis in his Ford Mondeo after receiving them from Mr Turley, a lorry driver.

Turley was paid £2,000 to bring the drugs, the court was told.

Keys

Mr Black, a plumber, had circled the area in his own BMW car before the lorry driver arrived, it was claimed.

The keys to a flat were also found, leading to the follow-up seizure.

The detective said three hydraulic jacks were located in Mr Black's car, one of which had white powder on its base.

He claimed dealers use similar devices as cocaine presses to bulk up drugs and make customers believe they are getting a high-quality produce.

"In Mr Black's case we would say he's the mastermind between this drugs gang," the officer told the court.

Mr Black's barrister, Denis Boyd, stressed no drugs were found in his client's car. He also disputed claims that mr Black may flee if released.

'Duress'

Referring to Mr Mulholland, the detective claimed he was "a mover of drugs, a courier".

Defence solicitor Michael Madden said the height of the police case was that he was in possession of packages for a short period of time.

The court heard Mr Turley claimed to have acted under duress and said that he had co-operated with police.

But the officer questioned this account due to the payment he allegedly received.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall refused to grant bail to any of the accused due to the risks of either re-offending or interfering with the investigation.

All three accused were remanded in custody to appear again via video-link next month.