Belfast Telegraph

Man allegedly linked to £860,000 cannabis distribution network denied internet access for chip shop business

By Alan Erwin

A man allegedly linked to the distribution of £860,000 worth of cannabis through Northern Ireland's postal system has been denied internet access for a fledgling chip shop business.

Ian Thompson was seeking to vary bail terms so he check emails connected to the venture in his native Ballymena.

The 51-year-old, of Colonsay Park in the Co Antrim town, is charged with conspiring with three others to supply Class B dugs between December 2016 and April 2018.

He faces a further count of concealing, converting or transferring criminal property, namely cash, over the same period.

Police claim WhatsApp messages link him to an operation involving money laundering and the delivery of drugs packages to different addresses.

Social media conversations between other suspects about cannabis were said to have been discovered after police examined a seized laptop.

Thompson was allegedly involved in exchanges about a customer who had complained at the quality of the drugs.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard packages were found at a number of locations, with cash lodgments to banks suspected of being linked to the racket.

It was previously revealed that in total 43 kilos of cannabis, with a street value of £860,000, have been recovered.

Nearly £65,000 in cash was also confiscated from addresses connected to other co-accused.

Following his arrest last month Thompson denied involvement in criminality and told officers others could have used his unlocked phone to communicate.

He was granted bail at the stage - despite police claims he could flee to Spain where he was said to have an interest in a Northern Ireland supporters' club bar in Benidorm.

He returned to court today seeking to vary release terms which include a ban on any online activity.

Defence counsel said: "He simply wants internet access so he can facilitate emails for the chip shop business he has recently set up in Ballymena."

Thompson would not delete his search history and allow police to check his activities, his lawyer stressed.

Despite refusing that application, the district judge agreed to temporarily suspend his curfew so he can attend a church ceremony and reception later this month.

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