Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 December 2014

£450,000 cocaine haul probe spreads to London

New searches have been carried out in London as part of a widening investigation into the seizure of £450,000 worth of cocaine and cannabis in Co Down, the High Court has heard.

Addresses in the north of the capital were targeted on Wednesday by detectives probing a suspected crime gang involved in the alleged importation and supply of drugs in Northern Ireland.

Two Chinese nationals were arrested and a further £120,000 in cash was recovered, according to the prosecution.

Details were disclosed as bail was refused to one of four people charged in connection with the cocaine and cannabis seizure in Lisburn two days before Christmas.

Mark McAleese (35), of Johnston Way in the city, faces charges of possessing and being concerned in the supply of class A drugs, and concealing criminal property.

He is alleged to have been at the home of two co-accused when police uncovered the haul.

A cocaine press and two suspected Taser stun-guns were also found at that property.

Follow-up searches by the police at McAleese's home led to the discovery of more than €28,000 and £11,000, the court heard.

Phone records were alleged to show contact with Pakistan, Holland and the Republic of Ireland.

Kate McKay, prosecuting, said receipts were found for purchases of expensive furniture and pointed out that McAleese was an unemployed window cleaner.

"Police believe this is an organised drugs crime gang responsible for the supply of significant amounts of cocaine and cannabis into Northern Ireland," she said.

McAleese claims, however, that the money found at his home came from business ventures linked to the sale of Ugg boots and Viagra tablets.

It was also stressed that McAleese was just visiting the house where the drugs and equipment was recovered.

"He has maintained his innocence," the defence lawyer added.

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