Two in court on £1m Belfast cannabis find charges

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Two men have appeared in court charged in connection with the discovery of an estimated £1m worth of cannabis.

Aiden McPartland, 29, from Deramore Gardens in Belfast and Warren Martin, 36, from Ballygonney Road West In Moneymore were refused bail.

They were detained following the drug seizure at Duncrue Street in north Belfast on Thursday.

Both men deny charges of possessing cannabis with intent to supply as well as other charges connected to the find.

The court heard that 25kg of cannabis was found in holdalls in Mr McPartland's taxi. Another 20kg was found in a lorry driven by Mr Martin.

Mr McPartland also denies a charge of transferring criminal property while Mr Martin denies a charge of possessing criminal property.

The accused spoke only to confirm their names and to acknowledge that they understood the charges against them.

A detective constable said that the police operation had been intelligence led and she believed both men were part of an organised crime gang.

She confirmed that during interviews, Mr McPartland "gave an account" of his movements, claiming that he thought he was collecting illegal cigarettes until he smelled the bag in the back of his taxi.

Mr Martin, she said, refused to answer police questions, choosing to answer "no comment" to police enquiries.

However, the officer revealed that until one day before his arrest, he had been on bail over allegations relating to the smuggling of five million cigarettes at Dover port.

Defence solicitors said their clients were merely "mules" being used to transfer the drugs.

The district judge refused bail, saying he believed there was a substantial risk of both men re-offending.