Northern Ireland

Chinese triad gangs make £900,000 from drug dealing

Belfast court complex
Image caption Belfast Crown Court heard the drug dealing operation was discovered following police searches in several areas of Belfast

Chinese triad gangs are making £900,000 a year out of a drug dealing racket in Northern Ireland, a court has been told.

The details of the organised criminal operation emerged during the sentencing of Zen Zyang.

The 24-year-old pleaded guilty to three counts of possession of cannabis resin with intent to supply and transferring £50,000 in cash out of NI in 2012.

The drug dealing operation was discovered following police searches.

Belfast Crown Court heard that police raided addresses in north, west and east Belfast between August and December 2012.

Police investigations and forensics linked Zyang to all three addresses and at one house in west Belfast, detectives from the PSNI's organised crime branch seized cannabis flowers hidden inside a fast food box.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC was told that Zyang, whose address was given as c/o Maghaberry Prison, tried to send £50,000 in cash through Ballysillan Post Office in north Belfast.

A crown lawyer said it was being sent to an address in London and "helpfully to the police the sender's address was also on the package''.

The court heard police went to the sender's address at Oaklee Street in north Belfast and observed a Chinese national leaving the property.

He was stopped by police and found to be carrying a holdall containing cannabis.

"It is the police's belief that organised Chinese crime gangs are carrying out these cultivating operations,'' said the prosecution barrister.

"The money is then sent through the postal system to a figure head in London who receives the money.

"This operation is bringing in around £900,000 annually.''

A defence barrister said Zyang had not "funded a lavish lifestyle'' from the drugs and said he used the money he received for his role for "food and lodgings''.

"In fact, when he was picked up by police he was living in extreme squalor in a small flat in east Belfast,'' the lawyer added.

The court was told by the lawyer that Zyang did not have a "substantial level of authority'' in the drug operation.

However, Judge Kerr Qc remarked: "He was not low level either given that he was entrusted with £50,000.''

The judge sentenced Zyang to a total of nine months for his drug offences and transferring criminal property.

He also ordered the destruction of the seized drugs, drug paraphernalia and the £50,000 in cash.

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