Four charged over £1m cannabis haul 'linked to Triad crime gang'
Four men have been charged after police seized an estimated £1m worth of cannabis.
The men - aged 38, 29, 29 and 19 - were held on a number of drug-related offences and were being questioned at Musgrave PSNI station yesterday.
Three are believed to be from south-east Asia and the fourth from north Africa.
Two properties were searched in the Springfield Road and Shore Road areas of Belfast, while two vehicles were stopped heading north on the M2.
Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton said he believed the haul of 50kg of herbal cannabis was linked to a south-east Asian Triad gang operating here.
The drugs were displayed yesterday at Grosvenor Road PSNI station and filled an entire table.
"Organised crime gangs make huge amounts of money from this illegal trade," said Mr Singleton.
"Some people do think that buying cannabis is harmless, but that's simply not the case.
"The reality is that the abuse of cannabis can damage your physical and mental health.
"Others are better placed to comment on that, but it's a fact that cannabis remains the most used drug by persons in Northern Ireland in treatment for drug addiction."
Mr Singleton added that the money spent on cannabis encouraged the growth of criminal gangs engaged in violence and intimidation, as well as other crimes like human trafficking.
The suspected Triad group, he said, was "one of the key groups" here in terms of importing and distributing cannabis.
"By our estimation, they're a significant organised crime gang. That's why they've been a priority investigation for the organised crime unit," he added.
SDLP councillor Paul McCusker described the drug seizure as "extremely worrying".
He said: "It is welcome news that an estimated £1m worth of drugs were seized by the PSNI in a number of searches across Belfast.
"The plight of drug use and distribution in our community is on the rise.
"Its effects destroy lives and families, with addiction services struggling to cope with the sheer number of those requesting help.
"I would encourage anyone with additional information to contact the PSNI."
Anyone with information of drug dealing in their area is urged to contact police on 101.