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Armagh man accused of drug offences linked to Operation Venetic granted bail


The man was granted bail (stock photo)

The man was granted bail (stock photo)

The man was granted bail (stock photo)

A Co Armagh man accused of drug offences linked to a Europe-wide crackdown on organised crime has been granted bail at the High Court.

Jeffrey McClean, 44, was arrested as part of an investigation targeting gangs using encrypted mobile phones.

The father-of-three, from The Hawthorns in Portadown, faces charges including conspiracy to import cannabis, being concerned in offering to supply cannabis and cocaine, and conspiracy to possess a firearm.

The alleged offences were committed on dates between March and June this year.

He was arrested as part of Operation Venetic, the UK's biggest law enforcement move against organised criminality.

Up to 30 people are facing prosecution in Northern Ireland in connection with the probe.

Crown lawyer Robin Steer said encrypted data was obtained after French and Dutch authorities formed a joint investigation team.

He claimed McClean is linked by messages which referred to a planned holiday in Jamaica and an image of herbal cannabis on top of a kitchen counter.

Mr Steer contended that the counter matched that in the accused's home.

Other messages allegedly involved discussions about importing drugs and inquiries about the cost of buying a Glock pistol.

Counsel accepted that about 20 others on charges linked to Operation Venetic have been granted bail, but tried to draw a distinction in McClean's case.

However, defence barrister Conn O'Neill argued that his client was a more suitable candidate than others released by the courts.

Granting the application, Mrs Justice Keegan cited equality of treatment as a reason for her decision.

She imposed a curfew and ordered McClean to surrender his passport and lodge a £10,000 cash surety as part of strict conditions.

Belfast Telegraph