Student 'at head of £15m drug racket' granted bail
A student accused of being part of an international drugs trafficking operation sending £15m worth of cannabis to Northern Ireland is to be released from custody, a High Court judge has ruled.
Yahan Wang was granted bail after her parents travelled from China to live with her at an address in south Belfast.
They are to put up a £20,000 cash surety as part of a series of strict conditions.
Mr Justice Treacy said it was an exceptional case where he had been influenced by her potentially bright academic future.
But he warned: "If she was to abscond that may have knock-on implications for other people and will certainly reinforce any cynicism I might have in dealing with similar cases."
The 24-year-old allegedly played a leading role in a gang suspected of dispatching packages to rented properties across the province. The operation is connected to a major growing factory uncovered in Italy, according to the prosecution.
Wang is charged with two counts of importing herbal cannabis, conspiracy to supply, and possessing the class B drug with intent to supply between January and March 2015. She faces further counts of transferring, converting and possessing criminal property, namely cash.
PSNI officers working with the National Crime Agency and Italian Carabinieri carried out searches at 18 properties in Northern Ireland this year.
Wang allegedly accompanied two Chinese men who viewed some of the rental properties.
During her bail application it was claimed that more than £15m worth of cannabis has been sent to Northern Ireland in a period stretching back more than a year.
Defence counsel claimed Wang came to Northern Ireland to help her partner rent properties for a restaurant business venture.
She claimed £60,000 discovered in the accused's bank account came from her partner to help with her lifestyle. Wang was said to have been unaware the money may have been the proceeds of any criminal activity.
Wang, with an address at Southside Central Walk in Birmingham, is said to be close to completing her degree in media studies.
Granting bail, Mr Justice Treacy described Wang's ongoing academic studies as "compelling reasons" for why she will not try to flee.
He stressed, however, that she will not be released until the £20,000 surety is lodged.
Wang must then live with her parents at a flat in Fitzroy Avenue, report to police daily, and have no contact with her co-accused.