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£100,000 cocaine haul was smuggled into Northern Ireland from Liverpool, court hears

Police seized a £100,000 cocaine haul allegedly smuggled in from England after mounting surveillance on both sides of the Irish Sea, the High Court heard today.

The drugs were recovered in Co Down in an operation involving National Crime Agency officers monitored a meeting between two suspects in Liverpool, prosecutors revealed.

Details emerged as bail was refused to a Belfast man accused of being in charge of a gang behind the importation.

Martin Young, 38, of Areema Drive in the Dunmurry area, faces charges of importing, possessing and conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

He was arrested last month along with up to four other men suspected of being part of the smuggling plot.

Police seized 1.5 kilos of cocaine, with an estimated street value of £100,000, after stopping a Volkwagen Golf driven by a co-accused on the A1 near Newry on November 3.

Weeks earlier Young had withdrawn £34,000 in cash from his bank account, according to prosecution barrister Conor Maguire.

It was claimed that this money was taken by a third man to an alleged drug supplier in Liverpool.

"That meeting was witnessed by the National Crime Agency. There's video surveillance in respect of it," Mr Maguire said.

A fifth suspect then allegedly collected the cocaine in Merseyside, boarded a ferry crossing to the Irish Republic and rendezvoused with the driver of the Golf at a hotel close to the border.

Mr Maguire claimed Young, an unemployed man, can be connected by phone analysis.

The accused told police that nearly £36,000 lodged in his bank account in October came from a win at the bookies.

He said the £34,000 was then withdrawn to share money with two other men who were part of the bet, the court heard.

It was disclosed that William Hill have confirmed Young placed a football bet On October 17 which won him £35,750.

The bookmakers further confirmed he has placed £78,000 in bets since May 2012, with winnings of £107,000.

Mr Maguire said: "It's the police contention that this applicant, given the nature of the communication and surveillance activities, is in fact the main player in respect of what is an organised crime gang."

Barry Gibson, defending, questioned the alleged evidence against his client, arguing that it may not even amount to a prima facie case.

"There are lodgments by the applicant from William Hill which would explain the money in his account," he added.

However, Mr Justice Stephens refused bail, citing the risk of any re-offending.

The judge also said: "Offences of this nature have a cruel effect on the lives of vulnerable individuals... and the potential for a devastating impact on various members of the community."

Belfast Telegraph