Northern Ireland

Drugs accused 'linked to loyalists, republicans and European gangs'

A man accused of leading a gang trying to import drugs worth millions into Northern Ireland has links to loyalists and republicans, a court has been told.

Prosecutors said Declan Gallagher also has ties to criminals in Spain and Holland.

The 32-year-old, originally from Londonderry but now living in Greater Manchester, was refused bail on 17 drugs-related charges.

They span a period between September 2013 and October 2014.

The alleged offences are linked to an investigation into a series of cannabis and cocaine seizures.

Risk

Mr Gallagher, a former driving instructor, is accused of multiple counts of conspiracy to supply and being concerned in the supply of cocaine and cannabis.

Setting out his alleged role, prosecuting counsel said: "There are separate gangs, for example one would be related to a loyalist group and another to a republican group.

"Whilst they have no contact with one another, these people all have contact back to Gallagher."

The case against him was said to involve telecommunications evidence, surveillance and CCTV footage.

The prosecutor said opposition to his release was based on the risk of further offences being committed.

"Police say he's the principal member of the gang, that he has suffered a very significant financial loss and that Gallagher will be determined to recoup that," she told the court.

Further fears were expressed that he may attempt to flee.

"He has connections with criminal gang members in Spain and he also has criminal links to Holland," she said.

Due to reporting restrictions imposed over fears for his personal security, Mr Gallagher's exact address cannot be published.

His barrister argued, however, that there was no substance to the prosecution allegations.

"What has been presented is nothing more than a lot of smoke and mirrors," he said.

"This is a case really of 'nudge-nudge, wink-wink' in terms of real evidence."

He also said that Mr Gallagher's domestic setting and lifestyle did not fit with the portrayal of him as a "Mr Big".

The lawyer said: "There were no signs of opulence in that home, there were no large sums of cash.

"Details of his bank account have been followed up and he's not linked to any bank account that contains large sums of money."

Refusing bail, the judge said there was a risk Mr Gallagher may not comply with release conditions.

The judge added: "These are extremely serious charges, with a UK and European aspect."