Northern Ireland

Drugs trafficking: Cannabis worth £15m 'sent to NI', court hears

An officer holds open one of the bags of 'skunk' cannabis Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Police have carried out searches at multiple addresses

More than £15m worth of cannabis has been sent to Northern Ireland in an international drug trafficking operation, the High Court has heard.

Packages were sent to multiple properties allegedly rented out as part of a racket linked to a growing factory uncovered in Italy, prosecutors said.

The details emerged as a media studies student accused of being a leading figure in the gang applied for bail.

Yahan Wang, of Southside Central Walk in Birmingham, faces seven charges.

The 24-year-old Chinese national is accused of two counts of importing herbal cannabis, conspiracy to supply, and possessing the drug with intent to supply.

She is further charged with money laundering offences.

Police Service of Northern Ireland officers working with the National Crime Agency and the Italian police were said to have carried out searches at 18 properties in Northern Ireland this year.

'Food chain'

Addresses in Belfast, Greenisland, Bangor, Newtownards and Ballywalter are all under investigation.

A prosecution lawyer said Ms Wang had accompanied two Chinese men for rental viewings of some of the properties.

Opposing bail, the prosecutor said detectives believed that, along with her boyfriend, she was "at the top of the food chain".

A defence lawyer said her client had come to Northern Ireland to help her partner rent properties for a restaurant business venture.

The barrister was questioned about £60,000 said to have been in her client's bank account.

The judge said: "That's an extraordinary sum of money for a student to have."

'Vulnerable'

The lawyer said Ms Wang believed her partner gave her the cash to help her lifestyle, unaware it may have been the proceeds of any criminal activity.

Trips to Italy were seen as a way to spend time with him, it was claimed.

"This is a simple case of a vulnerable young lady living in England as a student who has become involved with someone who has taken advantage of her," the lawyer said.

The judge said: "On the face of it, there's a prima facie case she is up to her neck in an operation which, so far as Northern Ireland alone is concerned, has involved the importation into Northern Ireland of drugs with a street value of over £15m."

He adjourned the bail hearing to next week, to give the defence a chance to provide more details on Ms Wang's university attendance records.

However, he added: "As things stand at the moment I'm unlikely to release her on bail."

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