Man accused of storing £100k drugs denied bail
A Romanian accused of being in possession of £100,000 worth of cocaine has claimed he was in debt to drug lords who allegedly trafficked him to Northern Ireland six years ago.
Appearing at Dungannon Magistrates Court was Gabriel Palko (22), of Ridgeway Manor, Moy, who was arrested following a police raid at his home on Thursday, although he was not present at the time.
Officers searched the boot of a vehicle parked in the driveway, which was registered to Palko's partner. A package was recovered which, on being tested, was found to contain 570 grammes of pure cocaine and 270g of mixed cocaine.
Palko was contacted and attended Dungannon Police Station, where he was charged with possession and intent to supply cocaine.
Objecting to bail, a police officer explained Palko gave an account of owing a debt of £400 to a fellow Romanian. He claimed to have been out jogging in Moy when "the man he owed drew up alongside and put him in his car".
As part of the outstanding debt, he claimed he was asked to hold a package for a time and agreed.
This was locked in the boot of the car and, while Palko knew it contained drugs, he contended he never looked in the bag.
The officer said: "Police are strongly against bail as we believe this man is linked a to Mid Ulster crime gang. The defendant displayed fears of repercussions after the package had been taken.
"He has no way of paying back drug lords, and may become involved in criminality to recoup the loss."
A defence lawyer, however, argued that bail should be granted, stating his client had given "a comprehensive account" of what happened, and went straight to police when contacted.
He added: "My client claims to have been trafficked into Northern Ireland some six years ago. He knows the criminals involved and particularly the ringleader, who could do him exceptional harm.
"He accepts he made a catastrophic error, but did it due to extreme fear."
But District Judge John Meehan said Palko had not been forthright with police.
Bail was refused and Palko is to appear again by video-link next month.
His partner, who was in court, wept as he was led away.