Gang jailed over £500k drug haul in upmarket flat
Members of a south-east Asian crime gang who ran a huge drugs operation from a luxury Belfast apartment have been jailed.
More than £500,000 of herbal cannabis was seized by police during a raid at a flat in the city's Obel Tower in October 2014.Cash, cocaine, ketamine and amphetamine were also discovered.
A major police probe - codenamed Operation Karhold - into the gang found that the drugs had been posted to Northern Ireland from Spain and then redistributed across the province and parts of Great Britain.
Police said their investigation had led to the dismantling of a "major drugs supply network".
Following a hearing at Belfast Crown Court yesterday, three members of the gang were jailed after admitting their roles in the distribution of the drugs and money laundering.
Illegal immigrant Hui Lin (41) was sentenced to eight years in prison for possession of class A drugs, possession of herbal cannabis with intent to supply, importing cannabis and money laundering.
Juan Guan (38), from Jerusalem Street in Belfast, was sentenced to three years after he admitted possession of herbal cannabis with intent to supply.
Yu Li, a 32 year-old illegal immigrant, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years after he admitted importing herbal cannabis and intending to supply it.
Last Friday, two women were also sentenced for their roles in the operation.
Haixia Guo (31), with an address in Sheffield, was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, after she admitted a number of money laundering-related offences.
Student Ying Han Zhao (25), with an address in London, was also given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, after admitting to three money laundering offences
The police operation that led to the convictions also uncovered cash and drugs in other parts of Northern Ireland, including Carrick and Portadown.
Cars were additionally seized and restraining orders were imposed on bank accounts.
The officer who ran the operation, Detective Inspector Andy Dunlop, revealed that the "lengthy and detailed" investigation began when police became aware of packages being sent from Spain in October 2014.
PSNI officers worked with South Yorkshire Police, the Metropolitan Police and the National Crime Agency to secure evidence against the gang.
The probe identified several bank accounts into which substantial amounts of money had been paid and then transferred.
One account, in the name of London student Ying Han Zhao, had more than £66,000 lodged from Belfast in three months, Mr Dunlop revealed.
"Although this crime group based their activities in Belfast, their criminal reach spread to Great Britain and beyond" the policeman added.
"We believe we have taken down a major drugs supply network. The investigative reach by law enforcement has been extensive and effective."
Confiscation proceedings are now being pursued, which may result in the seizure of substantial assets.