Belfast Telegraph

Belfast nail bar woman 'is no gangster's moll', drug trial hears

A Northern Ireland businesswoman allegedly linked to seizures of more than £800,000 worth of cannabis is no gangster's moll, the High Court heard today.

Prosecutors claimed 35-year-old Hang Nguyen was part of a crime operation, headed by her partner, growing drugs at factories across Northern Ireland.

But counsel for the nail bar technician insisted the case against her is based on nothing more than suspicion.

Declan Quinn argued: "If the prosecution are suggesting this lady is some sort of gangster's moll, there's no evidence of any trappings of a lavish lifestyle.

"When she was arrested at her business premises she had only £170."

Nguyen, of Lisburn Road in Belfast, faces 10 charges including producing and conspiracy to produce Class B drugs, and assisting unlawful immigration.

The mother-of-two was granted bail but banned from any contact with her 40-year-old partner and co-accused, Luong Bui.

The alleged offences were committed between April 1 and December 5, when police raided an industrial unit on the Glen Road in Comber, Co Down.

Crown lawyer Natalie Pinkerton said the warehouse had been divided into 10 rooms split over two floors.

Officers seized 1,200 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £600,000.

Living quarters had been set up for those allegedly growing the drugs, with one man claiming he had resided in the warehouse for six weeks after being brought over from Vietnam. Drugs worth £155,000 and £70,000 were also uncovered at residential properties in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, and the Four Winds area of Belfast as part of the same investigation.

Based on CCTV footage, the prosecution allege Nguyen and her partner purchased and delivered food and supplies to those staying at the facilities.

However, Mr Quinn insisted there was "clear blue water" in the strength of the case against his client and Bui.

He told the court she is a British citizen who left Hong Kong for the UK in 1992, arriving in Northern Ireland five years ago.

Since then she has been self-employed as a nail bar technician at outlets near her south Belfast home and in Lisburn, Co Antrim.

"She vehemently denies any role, she is not her partner's keeper," the barrister stressed.

Granting bail, Mr Justice Burgess acknowledged the allegations against Nguyen involved playing a lesser part in the operation.

Noting the potential impact on her two children, the judge ruled she can be released from custody.

He added: "She should surrender her passport to police and is not to leave the jurisdiction."

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