Belfast Telegraph

Cocaine smuggling plot accused 'only crossed Irish border to buy girlfriend a gift', court hears

A man charged over a suspected plot to smuggle £120,000 worth of cocaine into Northern Ireland only crossed the border to buy his partner a birthday gift, the High Court heard today.

Brian Gallagher was among four men arrested after two cars were stopped at different locations on the A1 carriageway in Co Down last week.

Two of the co-accused were in a BMW searched near Banbridge. A suspected cocaine package was discovered in its engine compartment.

Gallagher was detained with a fourth man in an Audi vehicle halted close to Dromore as part of the same cross border operation on June 10.

The 28-year-old, with an address at The Beeches Manor, Stoneyford, Co Antrim, denies charges of importing, possessing and conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

Based on an alleged fingerprint match, he has been further accused in connection with a separate seizure of cocaine valued at up to £60,000 last November.

During a bail application it was claimed the cars stopped last week were linked to a suspected drugs handover at a retail park in the Irish Republic.

Prosecuting counsel Kate McKay said Gardai had first observed the alleged encounter involving a third vehicle.

She claimed that after being brought into custody Gallagher was heard to shout to a co-accused: "If they ask you we were down buying or selling car parts."

During interviews he then told police he had gone to Dundalk to purchase alloys wheels for his girlfriend's birthday.

Defence barrister Des Fahy insisted no drugs were found in the car his client had been in when arrested.

Arguing that no evidence links Gallagher to last week's cocaine haul, he claimed the November incident had been introduced in a bid to bolster a weak circumstantial case.

Granting bail, Mr Justice Horner said he was not satisfied, based on what he had been told, that a proper prima facie case exists.

He imposed a night-time curfew, ordered Gallagher to wear an electronic tag and banned him from travelling in a car.

The accused's mother must also lodge a £5,000 cash surety as part of the bail conditions.

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