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Two in court over drug find allegedly linked to UVF

Two men have appeared in court in Belfast over a cocaine seizure allegedly linked to the UVF.

Police said they were detained after a consignment worth nearly £1,700 was discarded when a car was stopped in the city on Monday.

Quantities of Diazepam, herbal cannabis and £2,500 in cash was also recovered in follow-up searches.

Jason William McCrory, 32, and Lee Gardner, 33, are jointly charged with possessing and being concerned in the supply of cocaine.

McCrory, of Cumberland Drive in the Dundonald area, faces further counts of having Class B and C drugs, possession of criminal property, and possessing an offensive weapon.

A detective from the PSNI's Paramilitary Crime Task Force told Belfast Magistrates' Court: "We believe this is linked to an organised crime gang, namely east Belfast UVF."

He said the two accused were in McCrory's car when it was stopped in the Ravenhill area.

Gardner, from Lavinia Square in Belfast, allegedly got out and tried to run away.

According to police he threw away a sandwich bag which was recovered and found to contain cocaine with a street value of £1,680.

Scales, Diazepam tablets and a wooden baton were then retrieved from the car.

Police located the cash during a search at an address linked to McCrory, the court heard.

Opposing bail, the detective claimed attempts could be made to recoup any losses suffered by the crime gang.

McCrory's solicitor, Andrew Russell stressed his client denies being a member of the East Belfast UVF.

He argued that the alleged link to the paramilitary grouping was a prejudicial assertion without any supporting evidence.

During the hearing it emerged that McCrory works for a company providing subcontracting services to NI Water in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

He should not be remanded in custody, it was contended, due to fears of Covid-19 spreading through the prison population.

Bail was granted to both McCrory and Gardner, who had no legal representation for the hearing.

Imposing curfews and electronic tags, District Judge Fiona Bagnall banned the two defendants from any contact with each other.

She listed their cases for mention again in four weeks time.

Belfast Telegraph