Alleged cocaine 'Mr Big' and his partner were living well beyond their means, High Court is told
The alleged mastermind behind a huge cocaine factory uncovered near Belfast was living an extravagant lifestyle beyond his means, the High Court has heard.
Police who seized £600,000 worth of drugs and £300,000 in cash during raids on two houses linked to Patrick Auld also found evidence of spending on expensive watches, jewellery, diamonds and foreign holidays, prosecutors said.
Auld (33) and his shop manager partner Una McClory (31) are both facing an array of charges following the recovery of several kilos of suspected cocaine, 15,000 ecstasy tablets, one kilo of amphetamines, cannabis resin, steroids and diazepam in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, last week.
Three luxury Mercedes cars - one with personalised numberplates - two Taser stun guns, a cocaine press, 20 mobile phones, scales, and an electronic cash counting machine were also confiscated.
The couple, with an address at Dalewood in Newtownabbey, are jointly accused of converting and concealing criminal property, along with having class A, B and C drugs with intent to supply.
Auld faces further counts of being concerned in the production of cocaine and amphetamines, and possession of a prohibited weapon.
He was refused bail yesterday amid fears he could reoffend, interfere with the investigation or flee.
The drugs and nearly all of the seized cash were located at an empty property on Ballyhenry Avenue said to have been leased in McClory's name.
A further £13,500 was then discovered in searches of the nearby family home.
Lawyers for Auld, who works as a painter and decorator and repairs computers, claimed he only became involved with the drugs operation in a bid to pay off a £12,000 gambling debt to ex-paramilitaries. He is set to raise a defence of having acted under duress, the court heard.
Barrister Dennis Boyd said: "He was seriously threatened on a number of occasions in relation to the debt." He added: "To describe him as a Mr Big is not realistic."
However, prosecution counsel confirmed detectives believe Auld was "the man in charge".
She claimed paperwork and receipts found at the couple's home showed they were living well above their means. Setting out details of the alleged expensive purchases, the lawyer also disclosed that Auld has funded the setting up of a gym in a business park.
Suspected drug-dealing figures were discovered at those premises and in a bedroom, the court heard.
McClory, the manager in a Next retail store who was previously granted bail, claims she knew nothing about the drugs operation. But it was contended by the prosecution that she also spent considerably more than the couple earned. Describing their lifestyle as "over-extravagant", the barrister added: "Police would make the assertion that she was aware of what was going on."
Denying bail to Auld, Mr Justice Horner held that his alleged role within the racket was irrelevant.
The judge pointed out: "If he is the mastermind there's a risk he will continue to pull the necessary strings.
"If he's a cog in the wheel I accept the Crown argument there's a real risk of reoffending to pay off the considerable loss sustained."