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£2.3m drugs accused is smuggling gang's kingpin, court hears

By George Jackson

Published 23/12/2015

Declan Gallagher at an earlier court appearance
Declan Gallagher at an earlier court appearance

The victim of a murder bid has been described in court as "the principal member of an organised criminal gang involved in smuggling cocaine and cannabis into Northern Ireland".

A police officer was objecting to a bail application at the Crown Court in Londonderry by solicitor Paddy MacDermott on behalf of Declan Gallagher (33), who is originally from the city.

The defendant, whose address was given as the Greater Manchester area, was one of 16 people charged following the discoveries in 2013 and 2014 of cocaine and cannabis valued at £2.3m.

Another nine people arrested after the seizures have already been sentenced by the courts.

The police officer said there was strong CCTV and surveillance evidence linking the defendant to the discoveries of six drugs hauls in Antrim, Belfast, Lisburn, Derry and Larne.

He added the evidence against Gallagher, who was making his eleventh bail application, was both significant and strong.

The officer told judge Philip Babington that there was evidence linking the defendant to meetings of a major criminal gang held to discuss ways of smuggling the drugs into Northern Ireland from Manchester.

The officer said that Gallagher, who was the last person arrested following the six drugs seizures, had been able to regroup his criminal gangs following the arrests of his associates.

Objecting to bail being granted, the detective sergeant said he believed that, if released, the defendant would re-offend and would also flee the jurisdiction in order to avoid the case going to trial.

He added that Gallagher had associates in the Republic of Ireland, in Spain and in Amsterdam, and he said that the defendant had paid £30,000 in cash to a hotel in Manchester for his wedding in January 2014.

"It is our belief he is the principal member of an organised drugs smuggling gang which comprises up to 30 couriers," the officer told the court.

Applying for bail, Mr MacDermott, for Gallagher, told how his client was one of only two of the 16 co-defendants still in custody, and he had been in custody for the last 14 months.

The solicitor said others who faced similar charges had already been released on bail.

The court was also told the defendant lived in modest rented accommodation in Manchester.

"He has no trappings of wealth such as a villa in Spain or a yacht, nor has he any large amounts of money in his account," Mr MacDermott said, adding that the £30,000 used to pay for the wedding came from gifts from the guests.

"He denies being the so-called kingpin of a criminal drugs gang and he is both bullish and optimistic about going before a jury," the solicitor added. "He is, in fact, looking forward to his trial."

The court was told that two people - one in Manchester and the other in Coleraine - were willing to lodge cash sureties of £5,000 each with the court on behalf of the defendant.

But refusing bail, judge Babington said the fact that the case was before the Crown Court meant it was serious.

He added he accepted the police view that the defendant was "an international flight risk, and it is much easier for such people to vanish in the larger European Union. In refusing bail, I also take into consideration the fact that the police say they can link the defendant to all six drugs seizures," the judge told the court.

Belfast Telegraph

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