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Man charged in one of biggest Northern Ireland cannabis hauls claims he was 'innocent dupe'


Belfast High Court.

Belfast High Court.

Belfast High Court.

A car dealer charged in connection with potentially the biggest ever herbal cannabis seizure in Northern Ireland was an "innocent dupe" paid £700 to unwittingly transport it across the border, the High Court heard today.

Niall Mallon is accused of importing more than £1.3m worth of the drugs found inside a fuel container on a trailer at his home on Ballynaris Lane, Dromore, Co Down on March 30.

But the 38-year-old's barrister claimed he believed he was picking up plant machinery from a shipping agency in Dublin.

Joe Brolly argued: "His case is he knew nothing about the drugs, he never touched the drugs, he was an innocent duped in this.

"He doesn't fit the bill of a man with a house on the Costa Brava or an integral part of some drugs operation."

Mallon, and his 32-year-old co-accused Kevin McPolin, of Edenderry Park in Banbridge, are also charged with possessing the herbal cannabis with intent to supply.

They allegedly travelled together in a van which towed the trailer with a concealed 66 kilos of the Class B drugs.

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Prosecution counsel Conor Maguire said: "The approximate value is believed to be in excess of £1.3m, and possibly the largest seizure of herbal cannabis in Northern Ireland."

Police believe an organised crime gang was involved in transporting the haul.

During Mallon's bail application his legal team argued that he made two trips down to Dublin to pick up the consignment without knowing its true contents.

"He was told that it was plant machinery," Mr Brolly said.

The barrister described his client as someone who "wheels and deals", buys and sells cars, and agreed to the collection for a fee of £700.

Mallon was given a laptop containing the consignment details by an unidentified man, the court heard.

According to his lawyers those computer details have been passed to police.

Mr Brolly insisted the original plan had been to transport the trailer to an industrial estate in Lurgan, but when that site was closed it was instead taken to Mallon's home.

"It's not that he's meeting a man under Westlink bridge at three in the morning and there's a whole shadowy transaction," he added.

"Hes been open about all of this."

Adjourning the application for bail, Mr Justice Maguire said he wanted time to consider all submissions.

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