Northern Ireland

High purity cocaine seized in Belfast 'posted from Mexico'

Belfast Magistrates Court
Image caption The men appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court

High purity cocaine worth up to £2m was smuggled directly into Northern Ireland from Mexico, a court has heard.

Three kilogrammes of the drugs seized in Belfast had been concealed in vacuum packs and posted through an express mail service, a judge was told.

Police also told the court a worldwide arrest operation was expected against "a highly organised crime gang".

The details emerged as three men were remanded in custody in connection with the drugs haul uncovered on Tuesday.

Christopher Overend, 22, Philip Devlin, 28, and Abiodun Dahunsi, 35, are all charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Mr Overend, of Hillman Street, and Mr Devlin from Antrim Road, both in Belfast, are also jointly accused of possessing and importing Class A drugs.

A detective constable told Belfast Magistrates' Court the investigation was at an extremely early stage, and further "worldwide" investigations were taking place.

"These drugs have come straight from Mexico," she said.

"Initial field tests indicate an extremely high purity."

The location of the seizure was not disclosed during the hearing.

'Sinister'

A lawyer for Mr Devlin claimed he had been used by other "more sinister people".

He said the consignment was posted in Mr Devlin's name through a courier service, and he had brought his friend Mr Overend in.

They were to be each paid £500 each for collecting the package, the defence lawyer said.

Mr Overend's solicitor claimed his client only became involved as a favour to his friend.

The court was told he was allegedly under duress from another foreign national.

Both men were refused bail due to the risk of interfering with the ongoing police investigation or possible re-offending.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall said: "Despite the fact that it has been an intelligence-led operation it's at an early stage.

"There may well be an international investigation, therefore undoubtedly there will be complexities."

Mr Dahunsi, a Nigerian national with an address at Mount Alverno, Ballymurphy, Belfast, did not apply for bail.

All three accused were remanded in custody to appear again by video link on 7 June.