A £375,000 haul of herbal cannabis seized at Belfast docks was hidden inside footstools, a court heard today.
Police discovered the consignment among household furniture in a van which had just arrived on a ferry from Birkenhead on Tuesday evening.
Two men from Coventry arrested during the operation appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court on charges connected to the illegal shipment.
Sufyan Shazad (41), of Owens Road, and Zahid Shabbir (38), from Doffer's Lane, are jointly accused of possessing Class B drugs with intent to supply.
They were travelling in a Vauxhall Vivaro stopped on the Dargan Road by PSNI officers working with National Crime Agency representatives.
Packages of herbal cannabis with an estimated street value of £375,000 were found concealed inside five footstools in the rear of the vehicle.
Both defendants denied knowing anything about the drugs.
Shabbir claimed a Chinese man he knows from the Coventry area had asked him to deliver furniture to Belfast, the court heard.
According to his account he was to be paid £3,000, minus expenses, for the trip.
Defence solicitor Matt Higgins argued: "When he was asked to deliver furniture he took it at face value."
But a detective claimed Shabbir and another Chinese national also travelled to Belfast earlier in December to pick up the rental van.
Shazad told police he only joined his co-accused on the trip because of their long-standing friendship.
His lawyer, Feargal MacElhatton argued: (Shabbir) asked him to come to Belfast to keep him company on the journey."
Both men were granted bail on conditions which included a ban on contact with each other and a requirement to surrender any passports.
Adjourning their cases for four weeks, District Judge Ted Magill said: "This is an extremely substantial drugs find by police.
"There's a lot more going on here than is apparent on the surface."