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Belfast shopkeeper claimed Class B drugs were 'legal highs'

A Belfast shopkeeper was convicted today of having drugs he claimed to be a so-called legal high.

Mohammad Diwan insisted he had no suspicion the Ocean Snow product stocked at his city centre store contained banned substances.

But a judge found him guilty of possessing Class B drugs because he continued to keep it following an earlier seizure.

Diwan, 59, of Princes Gate, Dromore, Co Down, had already admitted similar offences over the seizure of a separate product known as Crave.

He was acquitted of further charges, including possession with intent to supply, during a contest hearing at Belfast Magistrates' Court.

He will be sentenced next month.

Charges were brought against him following a police crackdown on the sale of legal highs.

Diwan, who has been trading for 20 years, now runs his Wee Carnaby Centre business from North Street.

In March 2012 Department of Health officials went into his shop and took quantities of Ocean Product.

Days later police seized 26 different types of tablets, powders and bath salts to be tested for the presence of illegal drugs.

Among the products confiscated was some Ocean Snow taken off display and put in a drawer, the court heard.

Although nearly all of the items contained no banned substances, two were found to have banned substances.

In evidence Diwan said he had received assurances from suppliers that they were all 100% legal.

During cross-examination he accepted some of the products were not fit for human consumption.

He claimed customers may have been buying them for souvenirs.

But the court also heard that during police questioning he described some of them as "party pills" which could be used if you want to stay awake at a disco.

District Judge Gerard Trainor acquitted Diwan of the earlier charges due to insufficient evidence he knew outlawed substances were involved.

But convicting the defendant on one count of having Class B drugs, he said: "He continued to have that item in his possession on March 13 when he had reason to suspect it was a controlled drug, it having been seized from him a short time earlier."

The court heard Diwan has a previous conviction for perverting the court of justice over his account to police of an alleged racist incident at his shop.

Adjourning sentencing until next month, Judge Trainor commented: "He's clearly not a person of truth."

Belfast Telegraph