Northern Ireland

Dark web drug operation sees two Northern Ireland men jailed

Laganside Courts Complex
Image caption The two men were sentenced at Belfast Crown Court

Two men involved in an international drugs operation that included buying illegal substances on the 'dark web' using Bitcoin currency have been jailed.

Ryan Thomas McManus, 31, from Ava Street in Belfast and Ryan Milligan, 29, from Manse Road in Dundrum were given seven-year terms for over 40 drugs offences.

They will serve half their terms in prison and half on licence.

A third man on charges died on Tuesday.

Connor Devenney, 36, from Dunwellan Park in Newcastle, County Down, appeared in court last week, when the Crown set out its case against the three men.

However, a judge was told that Devenney, who faced two charges linked to the operation, died on Tuesday night.

Passing sentence on McManus and Milligan, the judge said the pair were involved in a "widespread supply of a quantity of illicit drugs" that they distributed "both in the UK and elsewhere".

He said that on one level there was a degree of sophistication, due to the use of the internet and Bitcoin currency, but on another there was a lack of sophistication as they left a "forensic trail".

He said this trail allowed both the police and other authorities to "become aware of the criminal activity" that ultimately led to their arrest.

Last week, the court heard that Milligan and McManus were arrested on 5 August, 2013, when several properties they were linked to were searched and drugs were seized.

A crown prosecutor said that during the period of offending - which spanned from January 2012 to August 2013 - the pair received consignments of drugs that were delivered to addresses either occupied or controlled by them.

They also used a virtual mailbox facility in the centre of Belfast.

The court heard some of the drugs were purchased online using Bitcoin currency. Drugs seized included more than 4,000 Class A tablets, and over 2,700 doses of DPP, as well as cocaine and over 100 grams of herbals.