Belfast Telegraph

Largest ever NI cannabis haul accused granted bail

By Alan Erwin

An alleged organiser of the largest ever herbal cannabis consignment seized in Northern Ireland is to be granted High Court bail.

A judge ruled yesterday that James McAleese can be released from custody once £10,000 in cash sureties are lodged.

The 42-year-old haulier is accused of hiring the trailer used to smuggle £1.3m worth of the drugs across Europe. McAleese, of Hill Street in Dundalk, Co Louth, faces charges of fraudulently importing cannabis and possessing it with intent to supply.

Officers discovered 66 kilos concealed inside a fuel container at a property on Ballynaris Lane, Dromore, Co Down on March 30.

According to the Crown case Niall Mallon (38), who lives at that address, and 32-year-old Kevin McPolin, of Edenderry Park in Banbridge, brought the drugs from Dublin into Northern Ireland. They face similar charges.

The consignment was in a container said to have been transported from Barcelona in Spain.

The court was told Mallon, who is already on bail, allegedly acted as a courier.

But the prosecution contend McAleese was higher up the criminal gang responsible for the importation, describing him as an "organiser".

Defence lawyers disputed the allegations, arguing that the police case against him is "tenuous".

They said McAleese had flown to London in connection with his work within the haulage industry.

Granting bail, Mr Justice Colton ordered McAleese to surrender his passport and banned any contact with his co-accused.

Belfast Telegraph

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