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Northern Ireland man in court on murder conspiracy charge after Operation Venetic raids

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The man appeared in court with charges linked to Operation Venetic (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The man appeared in court with charges linked to Operation Venetic (Jonathan Brady/PA)

PA

The man appeared in court with charges linked to Operation Venetic (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A sixth man has appeared in court on Tuesday facing a raft of criminal conspiracy charges connected to the Europe-wide investigation Operation Venetic.

Appearing at Newry Magistrates' Court sitting in Lisburn, via videolink from police custody, 32-year-old Brendan O’Callaghan confirmed that he understood the 10 charges against him.

O’Callaghan, from the Monog Road in Crossmaglen, is accused of conspiring to murder “persons unknown,” entering an arrangement to acquire criminal property, conspiring to transfer criminal property and seven drugs charges alleging that he is was involved in conspiracies to supply cocaine, cannabis and diazepam, conspiracies to possess the class A, B and C drugs with intent.

All are alleged to have been committed on dates between March 25 and June 15 this year.

He also faces a charge of simple possession of diazepam on July 6.

Giving evidence to the court, a detective constable said he believed he could connect O’Callaghan to each of the charges while prosecuting counsel Robin Steer said there were objections to the defendant being freed on bail due to concerns of him re-offending.

Claiming that O’Callaghan is “heavily involved in the large scale supply of drugs,” Mr Steer outlined that when his home was initially searched on April 18, officers found an encrypted mobile phone “just over the boundary wall, in a field”.

That encrypted device was examined and using the IMEI number, officers were able to obtain “a huge amount of messages between this defendant and his associates, we say, in relation to the transportation of drugs to NI and amounts to pay for those drugs".

The messages also spoke about “the cost of drugs, how much profit can be made... changing sterling to Euro, matters of that sort,” Mr Steer revealed, adding that during a further search on July 6, two iPhones were uncovered “hidden under the cooker,” around £2,000 in cash and a “quantity of documents".

“Police say that the messages show that the defendant is heavily involved in the large scale supply of illegal drugs,” declared the lawyer who told the court that during police interviews, O’Callaghan refused to answer officers’ questions.

Defence solicitor Tara Walsh argued that the evidence as it stands “is tenuous” given the fact that the encrypted phone “wasn’t found on his property or on his person” and there were two other people in the house at the time of the initial search.

“He denies that it’s his phone and he says that he doesn’t have any connection to that phone,” said Ms Walsh but Mr Steer told the court that in the encrypted messages, there were references to “Brendan Cross and to B man".

District Judge Mark McGarrity said he had to “take the prosecution case at its height” at this stage and in doing so, “a reasonable inference could be drawn that he is the person who had access and use of the device at issue".

Remanding O’Callaghan into custody until August 4, he said the risk of further offences was such that “I do not consider there are conditions that could meet that risk".

Belfast Telegraph