Northern Ireland

Three men sent to jail over £560k cannabis haul in Belfast

The herbal cannabis was seized at a Belfast city centre apartment Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The herbal cannabis was seized at a Belfast city centre apartment

Three members of a South East Asian organised crime group have been sent to prison after £560,000 worth of herbal cannabis was seized at a Belfast city centre apartment.

Police seized the herbal cannabis as well as smaller quantities of other drugs, cash and equipment in October 2014.

Cash and drugs seizures were also made elsewhere in NI.

Cars were seized and restraining orders imposed on bank accounts.

On Thursday, illegal immigrant Hui Lin, 41, was sentenced to five years in prison after he admitted possession of Class A drugs, possession of herbal cannabis with intent to supply and importing cannabis.

He was also sentenced to a total of three years, to run consecutively, for various money laundering offences.

Juan Guan, 38, from Jerusalem Street in Belfast was sentenced to three years after he admitted possession of herbal cannabis with intent to supply.

Illegal immigrant Yu Li, 32, was sentenced to three and a half years after he admitted importing herbal cannabis and intending to supply it.

Last Friday, two women were also sentenced for their roles in the operation.

Image caption The three men were sentenced at the Laganside courts complex in Belfast

Haixia Guo, 31, with an address in Sheffield, was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, after she admitted a number of money laundering offences.

Student Ying Han Zhao, 25, with an address in London, was also given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, after she admitted three money laundering offences.

The officer leading the investigation, Det Ins Andy Dunlop, said the jail terms on Thursday were the culmination of a "lengthy and detailed investigation which began when we became aware of packages being sent from Spain in October 2014".

"We have worked with colleagues in South Yorkshire Police and the Metropolitan Police along with the National Crime Agency to progress our enquiries and secure evidence to put before a court.

"The evidence was such that the defendants admitted the offences.

"Our investigation identified several bank accounts into which substantial amounts of money had been paid and then transferred. One account in the name of London student Ying Han Zhao had more than £66,000 lodged from Belfast in three months.

"Although this crime group based their activities in Belfast, their criminal reach spread to Great Britain and beyond. We believe we have taken down a major drugs supply network. The investigative reach by law enforcement has been extensive and effective."