A 44-year-old man has been remanded in custody in connection with the seizure of 4kgs of cocaine with an estimated street value of £240,000.
James Harkin, with an address in Strabane, was arrested after Metropolitan Police in London found the drugs in a car boot.
He appeared in the dock of Fermanagh Magistrate’s Court charged with conspiring with others, between a date unknown and October 28, to supply a controlled drug, namely cocaine, to another person. A detective constable told the court he believed he could connect Harkin with the charge.
Defence solicitor, Don Mahoney, applied to the court for a ban on the press publishing Harkin’s name or personal details, saying his client was in “genuine fear of certain elements”. District Judge Liam McNally asked the detective constable for the background to the case.
The officer told the court that last Thursday, October 25, the Metropolitan Police in London seized a BMW 5 series with four kilos of cocaine in the boot.
Inquiries revealed the car was destined for Northern Ireland. As a result police arrested Harkin for conspiracy to supply a Class A drug. He was interviewed and initially told police that he had visited London to buy a car.
He looked at the BMW and a Mercedes, but didn’t purchase either vehicle. He then spent the rest of the weekend with friends, drinking and gambling, before flying back to Dublin and travelling on to Strabane.
The detective said that after consulting with his solicitor,
Harkin “completely changed his story”, saying he had intended to purchase both the BMW and Mercedes, knowing they were stolen and to bring them to Northern Ireland with different number plates.
The police officer said Harkin initially said he did not have a mobile phone but then said he had one just for the trip to London and destroyed it afterwards.
The District Judge said that the two issues were Harkin’s right to life and the freedom of the press and the right of the public to know the identity of those who have been connected with drugs.
He refused the application to ban publication of Harkin’s details. Mr Mahoney said there would be no application for bail.
Harkin was remanded in custody to appear at Strabane Magistrate’s Court by video link on November 22.