Businessman Peter Downs charged over £2.3m drugs haul
A man has appeared in court on charges linked to the discovery of £2.3m of cocaine and cannabis.
The drugs were found in six different locations in 2013 and 2014 following a surveillance operation by the PSNI and National Crime Agency.
Sixteen other people are currently awaiting trial following the seizures and six more have already been dealt with by the courts.
In Londonderry Magistrates Court yesterday was Peter Downs (38), a company director and father-of-five from Mount Street, Chessington, Surrey.
He denied one charge of conspiring with others to supply cocaine and one charge of being concerned in supplying cocaine.
A detective constable from the PSNI's Organised Crime Branch told District Judge Barney McElholm the defendant was arrested in London on Monday by Greater Manchester Police and handed into the custody of PSNI officers in the city on Tuesday.
The officer said the charges were linked to the discovery of £372,000 of cocaine during one of the six seizures. He said the cocaine was found in one of two cars stopped by police on the Dromore Road in Hillsborough, Co Down, on May 21, 2014.
The officer told the court the PSNI had surveillance evidence that showed the defendant had attended two meetings of a drugs crime gang. One was at the Fairways Hotel in Manchester on March 3, 2014, and the second at the Premier Inn in Lisburn on March 21, 2014. He said the defendant flew in from Amsterdam to attend the meetings.
Opposing bail, the police witness said the defendant was a convicted cocaine courier and he did not believe the defendant would answer bail as he had breached conditions on numerous occasions in the past.
He added the defendant had also failed to attend pre-arranged meetings with the police accompanied by his solicitor over a six-month period prior to his arrest in London on Monday.
The detective constable agreed with defence solicitor Michael McGee that there was no forensic evidence linking the defendant to the cocaine.
Applying for bail, Mr McGee said the defendant was willing to adhere to any court-imposed bail conditions.
He also revealed the defendant's mother was willing to put up her house in Manchester as surety.
Mr McGee said if remanded in custody, it would be several months before any trial could take place because of the ongoing payments dispute between local barristers and the Justice Minister David Ford, which has caused a considerable backlog in criminal trials.
Mr McElholm said most of the other defendants in the case had already been granted High Court bail. He released the defendant on his own bail of £1,000 together with a cash surety of £30,000 to appear in court again on January 28.
The defendant, who will remain in custody until the £30,000 is lodged with the court, was ordered, upon his release, to reside at his home address in London, to report to the local police twice a week and to surrender his passport.
He was also ordered not to contact his co-defendants and to always have on his person an operable mobile phone, the number of which he must supply to the PSNI.