Belfast Telegraph

Major £1m drug raids leave at least 17 facing prosecution

By Alan Erwin

At least 17 people are facing prosecution following a year-long surveillance operation targeting a suspected drugs and money laundering gang in Northern Ireland, the High Court heard today.

Detectives seized around £1 million worth of cocaine and cannabis, along with cash in excess of £500,000, during raids in Belfast, Derry, Armagh and Omagh.

The scale of the investigation was revealed as bail was refused to a man accused of being a key figure in the organised crime outfit behind the illegal trade.

Granted anonymity and referred to only as XY, the Courts Service also declined to confirm his age due to the tight reporting restrictions imposed.

He faces a total of 10 charges, including conspiracy to supply Class B drugs and possessing, transferring and using criminal property.

According to Crown lawyer Robin Steer the alleged offences are connected to a large-scale investigation into a gang operating across different locations.

"Seventeen people have been arrested and charged, and police still wish to speak to other people in respect of the financial aspects of the investigation," he said.

Mr Steer detailed five incidents as part of surveillance carried out from July 2016. They included:

  • The seizure of nearly £114,000 and 73,500 euros in Armagh in July 2016.
  • Another £400,000 recovered by police in the same area a month later.
  • Herbal cannabis worth £120,000 seized in Omagh, again in August 2016.
  • A further £280,000 of cannabis and £10,000 in cash confiscated in Derry in September 2016.
  • A consignment of high-purity cocaine, valued at £500,000, seized with more cannabis, at Duncrue Street in Belfast in February 2017.

According to the prosecution, the cash was to be used for purchasing drugs.

Mr Steer claimed telephone evidence links XY to the suspected crime operation.

Financial investigations showed more than £300,000 was moved through his bank account between 2014 and 2017, the court heard.

Based on XY's line of work, the prosecutor argued he had no legitimate source for that level of income.

Defence counsel stressed his client is only charged in connection with one of the drugs seizures.

The barrister also claimed there was a lack of evidence to back the case being made against XY.

"The Crown have alleged (he) is a major player, but they have not been able to substantiate that."

Despite those submissions, Mr Justice Maguire ruled that the accused must remain in custody at this stage.

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