Belfast Telegraph

Drugs gang chief linked to both loyalist and republican factions, court hears

By Alan Erwin

The alleged head of a crime gang trying to import millions of pounds worth of drugs into Northern Ireland has links to both loyalist and republican factions, the High Court heard today.

Prosecutors claimed Declan Gallagher's connections straddled both sides of the sectarian divide.

The 32-year-old, originally from Derry but now living in the Greater Manchester area, also has ties to criminals in Spain and Holland, it was alleged.

Details emerged as Gallagher was refused bail on 17 drugs-related charges spanning a period between September 2013 and October 2014.

The alleged offences are linked to an investigation into a series of cannabis and cocaine seizures.

More than £2 million worth of drugs have been recovered and 18 people charged as part of the ongoing probe.

Gallagher, a former driving instructor, is accused of multiple counts of conspiracy to supply and being concerned in the supply of cocaine and cannabis.

Setting out his alleged role, prosecutor Stephanie Boyd said: "There are separate gangs, for example one would be related to a loyalist group and another to a republican group.

"Whilst they have no contact with one another, these people all have contact back to Gallagher."

The case against him was said to involve telecommunications evidence, surveillance and CCTV footage.

Mrs Boyd stressed opposition to his release was based on the risk of further offences being committed.

"Police say he's the principal member of the gang, that he has suffered a very significant financial loss and that Gallagher will be determined to recoup that," she told the court.

Further fears were expressed that he may attempt to flee.

"He has connections with criminal gang members in Spain and he also has criminal links to Holland," she claimed.

Due to reporting restrictions imposed amid fears for his personal security Gallagher's exact address cannot be published.

His barrister argued, however, that there was no substance to the prosecution allegations.

"What has been presented is nothing more than a lot of smoke and mirrors," he said.

"This is a case really of 'nudge-nudge, wink-wink' in terms of real evidence."

He also contended that Gallagher's domestic setting and lifestyle do not fit with the portrayal of him as a so-called "Mr Big".

The lawyer insisted: "There were no signs of opulence in that home, there were no large sums of cash.

"Details of his bank account have been followed up and he's not linked to any bank account that contains large sums of money."

But refusing bail, Mr Justice Weir held there was a risk Gallagher may not comply with release conditions.

The judge added: "These are extremely serious charges, with a UK and European aspect."

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