Dissident death threat for Belfast drug baron on disability allowance as he fails to pay protection
Republican paramilitaries have ordered a "Mr Big" of the Belfast drugs world to pay them a £15,000 tax to allow him to keep dealing, it can be revealed.
The man, who also has links with loyalist paramilitaries, is now under threat from republicans in the New Lodge area after he failed to pay up.
According to sources, the dealer, who is in his 50s and on Disability Living Allowance, was making around £3,000 a week selling the highly addictive prescription drug Lyrica, also referred to as "bud".
However, the Belfast Telegraph understands that his business was thwarted last month after a police operation in north Belfast blocked the source of his supply.
Lyrica, which is used to treat epilepsy, has become a popular street drug. Users take apart the capsule, crush the contents and inject it into their bodies. It is said to produce a similar effect as Valium.
It has been reported that the drug is prevalent among prisoners in local jails.
The dealer, who lives in a city centre apartment, is under police investigation.
His property was raided earlier this week.
The PSNI said the search had been carried out under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
A PSNI spokesman added: "Nothing was found during the search and no arrests were made."
It is understood that after the search police asked him to come forward "to assist with their enquiries".
However, through his lawyer he told officers he would not be making himself available.
A source said he was now concerned about the republican terror threat hanging over him for not paying his protection money.
"He is a Mr Big in the dealing of prescription drugs in Belfast. That lot (members of a dissident republican organisation) in the New Lodge realised how much he was making and have been charging him a tax. It wasn't a problem paying it until he couldn't get his hands on the bud anymore after a police sting last month," he said.
"I've estimated he has dealt more than £500,000 worth of Lyrica. These tablets go for about £2 or £3 each on the street. But now he can't get his hands on it, he can't pay up. He's gone to the UVF for protection."
Both republican and loyalist terrorists carry out "punishment" attacks on drug dealers within their communities. They say they are protecting their areas from the scourge of drugs.
However, drug dealers are allowed to operate in paramilitary-controlled areas as long as they pay a tax to terror bosses.
In 2014/15, 88 people died as a result of drug abuse, according to official statistics. This was the highest level in a decade. The killer drugs included illegal ones such as heroin and cocaine, and prescription medicines like sedatives and anti-depressants.
Figures show prescription medicines were - by a wide margin- mentioned on more death certificates than anything else.
Last year, of all drug-related deaths, diazepam was mentioned on 42 death certificates.