Men appear at Belfast court over 'million pound' drug operation
A million pound-plus drugs manufacturing operation was uncovered during a police raid on a city centre flat in Belfast, a court has heard.
Around 52,000 illicit tablets, 30 kg of cannabis resin, 1kg of cocaine and £15,000 in cash were part of the haul found in the Laganview Court apartment near Queen's Bridge, Belfast Crown Court was told.
A hydraulic press for making cocaine, an industrial blender, cutting agent, boards, scales and knives were also seized from inside the property, which was fitted with black-out blinds.
The flat was searched by officers in December 2010 shortly after three men were arrested in the wake of the transfer of 26 kg of herbal cannabis between vehicles near the Boucher Road in south Belfast.
Two months earlier two other men were arrested in the Duncrue estate in north Belfast following another drugs transfer - this time involving around 45 kg of herbal cannabis - linked to the same trafficking operation.
The five men and two others were subsequently charged with drugs offences in relation to the police investigation and have since pleaded guilty to a series of charges.
They all appeared before Judge David McFarland today ahead of sentencing.
Aiden Joseph McPartland (31) from Deramore Gardens, Belfast; Warren Martin (38) of Windsor Terrace, Coagh, Cookstown; James Turley (53) of Ballymore Road, Tandragee; Mark Mulholland (27) of Colonsay Park, Ballymena; William Johnston (35) of Windermere Park, Belfast; and Anthony McStravick, (33) from Ailesbury Road, Belfast appeared with the man police believe was the gang's leader - 29-year-old Ryan Joseph Black, whose address was withheld for legal reasons.
After a Crown barrister set out the facts of the case, lawyers for all seven defendants outlined the mitigating factors the judge should consider when passing sentence.
Judge McFarland said he wanted to consider the legal submissions and said he would pass sentence on Friday.