Two face court over £1.3m cannabis haul tracked across the Irish border
Two men are due in court today over a £1.3m cannabis haul by police in Co Down on Friday night.
The drugs were hidden inside an industrial-sized fuel tank that was stored on a shipping pallet at a property in Dromore.
A specialist PSNI unit used angle grinders to break open the tank and reveal the cannabis stash, which is one of the largest discovered in Northern Ireland in recent times.
The Two men, aged 32 and 37, will appear in court in Newry today charged with fraudulently importing class B drugs, possession of drugs and possession of drugs with intent to supply.
A 78-year-old man and three women, one aged 42 and two aged 68, were also arrested and later released on bail.
Putting the dozens of packages of drugs on display yesterday, police chiefs said it struck a major blow against a local organised crime gang.
Confirming the haul was supplied by southern-based dealers, the head of the PSNI's Organised Crime Unit Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton said: "For these organised crime groups borders are just lines that appear on a map somewhere.
"They view the Irish drugs market as an all-island market and they are capable of moving seamlessly across both jurisdictions.
"Here in the north we're a subsidiary market to both the UK and Irish Republic's drugs market.
"In that respect it puts a challenge on us and gardai to work as closely as possible in order to tackle that."
In a surveillance operation involving both the PSNI and Garda, operating under the Cross Border Joint Agency Taskforce, the £1.3m cannabis haul was watched being moved across the frontier.
Once it arrived in Dromore undercover officers raided the property and used equipment to cut open the fuel tank in which the drugs were hidden.
DS Singleton confirmed there was a family link between some of those arrested.
He explained that the crime gang that owned the drugs had been under investigation for "quite a significant length of time".
He said: "They would certainly have a footprint in (Co Down and Co Armagh), but when it comes to moving their product, their span stretches well beyond that.
"At this stage we're not necessarily seeing links to paramilitaries, but when you take into account that it's a relatively small country, paramilitaries will be involved both directly and indirectly in the drugs trade.
"You could argue at some point this (£1.3m cannabis haul) may have crossed the path of paramilitaries."