Belfast Telegraph

One of Northern Ireland's biggest apple orchard owners accused of drink scam

By Ian Read

Customs officers failed to realise that a man charged with masterminding a major booze scam is one of Northern Ireland's biggest apple growers.

His massive orchard was next door to the transport firm alleged to be at the centre of a £2m alcohol smuggling racket.

Kieran Hughes is charged with 14 counts of smuggling vodka and whisky through Dover and one fraud offence. He denies them all.

He is co-owner of Hughes-Ireland transport firm, whose vehicles were used to haul the alcohol.

But Hughes' lawyer Richard Guest said his client wasn't an active participant in the haulage company, concentrating instead on his 20-acre apple orchard – the size of 50 football pitches.

Yesterday, Mr Guest cross-examined a customs officer who led a raid on Hughes' offices in Coharry Road, Portadown.

Caroline Hunter said she hadn't seen any files relating to the apple-growing business during her raid on the transport firm.

Mr Guest told Maidstone Crown Court there was nothing to prove he worked from those offices.

The case continues.

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