Belfast Telegraph

£1.3m drugs haul accused 'part of sophisticated criminal gang'

By Brett Campbell

Two men appeared in court yesterday charged in connection with the seizure of cannabis with an estimated street value of £1.3million.

Kevin McPolin (32) and Niall Mallon (37) stood side-by-side in the dock of Newry Magistrates Court as they were charged with importing class B drugs, possession, and possession with intent to supply.

The drugs were found in a fuel container at a property on Ballynaris Lane in Dromore, where Mallon lives with his parents.

It also emerged that a third man wanted in connection with the find has escaped police capture by fleeing the jurisdiction.

The prosecution told the court they believe Mallon and McPolin are "part of a sophisticated crime gang moving drugs across Europe" and that the chance of both men reoffending to "make up for the financial loss" was high.

The court was told that during police interview Mallon refused to account for his movements that day.

He has also refused to provide police with the PIN number required to access his phone.

Documents - linked to unnamed persons who were not present in court - and £1,500 in cash were also seized in the operation.

A detective told the court that McPolin claimed the money was from the sale of a car but that he was unable to provide evidence of the transaction.

The court heard how McPolin, who lives with his parents at Edenderry Park in Banbridge, was captured on CCTV collecting a trailer from a rental business in Dublin on Friday before the pair allegedly transported the drugs across the border in a white Citroen van.

The court also heard that during police interview McPolin insisted he didn't know what was in the package and had only found out about the cannabis following his arrest.

It was alleged that he admitted being with Mr Mallon in Dublin but claimed he couldn't remember anything else about that day. The police officer recommended that bail be denied to both men as they could "interfere with active lines of enquiry" into other individuals.

But the defence solicitor argued that bail should be granted given that McPolin is currently unemployed and his partner is expecting the arrival of their first child this week.

"The suggestion that there is a risk of reoffending certainly isn't borne out by the facts," the solicitor added.

He also asked the judge to take McPolin's "limited" criminal record into account.

He said that if he was released on strict conditions he would want to be with his family for the birth of his first child and claimed that there was no evidence he would intimidate witnesses.

The defence also argued that "an army of conditions" could be imposed on Mallon which would severely limit his movements.

But refusing bail, Judge Eamonn King said he had to take police objections seriously.

"This is a Europe-wide enterprise spanning a number of jurisdictions," he added.

"It has the appearance of a sophisticated operation and the investigation is only in its early stages."

Both men were remanded in custody until April 26.

Belfast Telegraph

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