An Englishman accused of posting a £30,000 block of cocaine to Belfast unwittingly sent the package to pay off a gambling debt, the High Court heard today.
Gary Jones was arrested by police in Manchester and brought to Northern Ireland as part of an 18-month investigation into a suspected drugs importation racket.
The 36-year-old was questioned and charged in connection with a seizure made in October 2011.
Police recovered compressed block of cocaine wrapped inside a package after stopping two cars on Belfast's Grosvenor Road. Four other suspects were detained at the scene.
CCTV footage allegedly shows Jones, of Brows Avenue, Manchester, posting the parcel from the city a day earlier, the court was told.
A prosecution barrister said his fingerprints and DNA were found inside the package.
Jones, who faces a charge of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, had been wanted since July last year but was only arrested on March 19, she added.
Opposing his application for bail, the barrister claimed there was a risk of interference with a concierge at the accused's previous apartment in Manchester.
This witness claimed Jones had several shoe box-shaped packages during the past two years.
"After this man gave a statement his house was petrol bombed," the barrister said.
However, according to Jones the boxes related to purchases made on eBay.
Defence counsel Sean Mullan argued that his client had been exploited through his addiction to gambling.
He owed money to a man he refuses to name and agreed to send the parcel out of fear for his own safety, the court heard.
Mr Mullan said: "That's why effectively he has been coerced into posting this package.
"He was not aware what was in the package, but he had suspicions."
With the accused claiming to have lived at the same address for four years, Mr Justice Maguire adjourned the application until he receives more details on police efforts to locate him.
The judge also requested clarification around the concierge's current situation.