Northern Ireland

'Skunk' cannabis: Fifth man in court in Newtownards

A sum of cash was also seized by police during searches in Northern Ireland Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The Police Service of Northern Ireland has seized cash and more than £800,000 of 'skunk' cannabis in recent days after searches in several locations

A 37-year-old man has been remanded in custody charged over an international investigation into the supply of cannabis to Northern Ireland.

I Wenjie He, from Solihull in the West Midlands, was arrested in England on Wednesday.

He was then brought to Northern Ireland for questioning.

It follows the seizure of more than £800,000 of 'skunk' cannabis and cash during searches across Northern Ireland in recent days.

At Newtownards Magistrates Court on Saturday, a detective said the police investigation is still ongoing and that they fear the man might flee if released on bail.

Mr He was among 15 people arrested in the UK and Italy during the investigation.

Four men have already appeared in court charged with similar offences.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland carried out searches in Belfast, Greenisland, Bangor, Newtownards and Ballywalter.

They have also been co-operating with police in Italy, where officers uncovered a cannabis factory.

It is believed the total value of the 'skunk' seized in Northern Ireland and Italy was £4.25m and was destined for Northern Ireland.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The PSNI released photos of what they said was a cannabis factory found in Italy as part of the Italian investigation
Image copyright Psni
Image copyright Psni

The four other men who have already been charged - Jian Wen Chen, 29, of Belfast, Jiazhu Cia, 30, of Ballywalter, Yong He, 33, from Belfast and Wei Zou, 32, from Bangor - all appeared in Newtownards Magistrates' Court on Thursday.

The men were among six people, including two women, arrested in Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

The women, aged 29 and 26, have since been released on police bail pending further inquiries.

Eight people were also arrested in Italy and remain in custody.