A man who used the codename Eagletoxic on a criminal phone network has become the 31st man to be charged in Northern Ireland as part of the Europe-wide Operation Venetic investigation into organised crime.
William John Hewitt (33) was arrested on Monday after police seized 14 high-end and classic cars, valued at between £500,000 and £750,000, from a warehouse in Newry and at his home.
Armagh Magistrates Court, sitting in Newry, heard that in addition to the cars, police also found a notebook with alleged drug references and mentioning "around £2m" owed to Hewitt.
The married father-of-two who runs a shop and is from the Lower Foughill Road in Jonesborough, appeared at court by videolink from police custody, confirming that he understood the four charges against him.
Hewitt was charged with three drugs offences accusing him of conspiring to import cannabis and being concerned in offers to supply cocaine and cannabis. One further count alleged that he entered an arrangement to acquire criminal property, all between last March 25 and June 15.
During a contested bail application, prosecuting counsel Robin Steer told how the offences arose after investigators were able to obtain data which was previously encrypted, adding that officers believe Hewitt "is involved in drug dealing at a very high end involving multiple consignments of drugs and he is part of a network in the supply of drugs".
Explaining that encrypted handsets could only interact with similar handsets using code names, he revealed that from obtained data, officers were attributing the username Eagletoxic to Hewitt. The lawyer told the court that in unencrypted messages, the user Eagletoxic had twice called himself Hewitt and had "sent a picture of himself lying in the bath".
He said the seizure of the classic cars was significant in that in the messages, the user had sent messages referring to a car collection and declaring "Hewitt will be known as legend".
A search of Hewitt's home uncovered a notebook "hidden behind the microwave" which contained "multiple references to the same type of terminology used in encrypted data" referring to different types of drugs.
Both the lawyer and the detective said that Hewitt lives within a few miles of the border so given the possibility of a lengthy jail sentence if convicted, "he may move across the border". Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer refused to grant bail and remanded Hewitt into custody. The case was adjourned to March 24.