Men remanded in custody over £1.3m Dromore drugs haul
Two men have been remanded in custody following one of the largest drug seizures in Northern Ireland with an estimated street value of £1.3million.
Kevin McPolin (32) and Niall Mallon (37) were denied bail after appearing before Newry Magistrates Court on Easter Monday — they spoke briefly only to confirm they understood the charges against them.
Both men stood side-by-side in the dock as they were charged with importing class B drugs, possession, and possession with intent to supply after a “large quantity” of cannabis was found in a fuel container in Dromore during a police raid on Friday.
The drugs were recovered from a property on Ballynaris Lane, where Mallon lives with his parents
It emerged that a third man has absconded police capture by fleeing the jurisdiction.
Detective Constable Kinkaid told the court that a package containing “a large quantity of class B drugs estimated to have a street value of £1.3million” was discovered through an intelligence led operation carried out in co-operation with Gardai and described the haul as “one of the largest drug seizures in Northern Ireland”.
The prosecution told the court they believe Mallon and McPolin are “part of a sophisticated crime gang moving drugs across Europe” and said the chance of both men re-offending to “make up for the financial loss” was high.
The court was told that during police interview Mr Mallon confirmed he lived at the address where the drugs were seized but “refused to account for his movements” that day.
He has also refused to provide police with the PIN number required to access his phone.
Shipping documentation - linked to unnamed persons who were not present in court - and £1,500 in cash were also seized in the operation.
DC Kinkaid told the court that McPolin claimed the money was from the sale of a car but that he was unable to provide evidence of the transaction.
The court heard how McPolin, who lives with his parents at Edenderry Park in Banbridge, was captured on CCTV collecting a trailer in a white Citreon van from a rental business in Dublin on Friday before allegedly transporting the drugs into the country.
Mr Kinkaid said the company was able to provide Gardai with a phone number used by the customer to arrange collection which relates to an "unnamed person who is still at large".
The court also heard how during a police interview McPolin insisted he didn’t know what was in the package and had only found out about the cannabis following his arrest - he admitted being with Mr Mallon in Dublin but claimed he couldn’t remember "anything else about that day".
DC Kincaide advised that bail be denied to both men whose release could “interfere with active lines of enquiry” into other individuals.
But the defence solicitor argued that bail should be granted given that McPolin is currently unemployed and his partner, Ms McIlroy, is expecting the arrival of their first child this week.
“The suggestion that there is a risk of re-offending certainly isn’t borne out by the facts,” he added.
The solicitor also asked the judge to take McPolin’s “limited” criminal record into account which consists of several driving offences, however he also revealed that his client received “a caution in 2004 for cannabis” which has since been deleted.
“If released on strict conditions he would want to be with his family for the birth of his first child,” McPolin’s solicitor told the judge.
“There is no evidence that he will intimidate witnesses.”
The defence also argued that an “an army of conditions” could be imposed on Mallon which “would severely limit his movements”.
The court was told that he too has only a “limited” record.
But Judge Eamonn King said that while each of the accused has a “minimal entry in relation to the misuse of drugs” that he had to take police objections seriously.
“This is a Europe wide enterprise spanning a number of jurisdictions,” he said.
“It has the appearance of a sophisticated operation and the investigation is only in it’s early stages.”
Mr King said that police need time to examine evidence and track the origin and pathway of the drugs including “relationships these men have with other people involved.”
The judge said there was a “serious risk” they would abscond and “interfere with the investigation” which is in its early stages.
Both men will reappear before the court by way of video link on April 26.
Belfast Telegraph Digital