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Arrests part of 'ongoing' PSNI probe into East Belfast UVF, court hears

One of the men sobbed throughout the hearing at Belfast Magistrates' Court.
One of the men sobbed throughout the hearing at Belfast Magistrates' Court.

By Ciaran Barnes

The arrests of several men in connection with PSNI drug raids was part of an “ongoing” investigation into the activities of the East Belfast UVF, a court has been told.

A detective made the admission during cross-examination by a solicitor for Andrew Crawford (28), from Carndore Grange, Newtownards, who was remanded in custody on charges of supplying cocaine.

He was among 11 people arrested on Friday in dawn raids by officers from the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce.

Also remanded in custody on cocaine dealing charges were Mark Rainey (39) with an address at St Patrick’s Walk Belfast, and Darren Baine (29) from Cheviot Avenue.

A fourth man Conor McConnell (22), with an address at Wye Street in Belfast was freed on bail after police accepted his case was “stand alone” and not connected to Friday’s Taskforce operation.

During Saturday’s court hearing unemployed Baine was accused by police of being part of a drug-dealing network and a criminal gang linked to east Belfast UVF. He was also named as playing a key role in the drug-dealing operation.

A detective revealed that cocaine with a street value of £15,000 was discovered in Crawford’s home which he shares with his partner and two young children. Drug dealing paraphernalia, UVF flags, and a handful of ecstasy tables were also located.

Both men were refused bail on the basis that they may commit further offences which put a risk to public health.

Rainey did not apply for bail.

The court heard how McConnell was arrested after his mobile phone was seized by detectives who were searching for a “relative” in connection with the UVF murder of Ian Ogle in January.

It contained evidence of minor drug dealing which he admitted to during police interviews last Friday.

McConnell, who sobbed throughout the hearing, was freed on bail after an officer accepted that his case was not linked to the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce’s UVF investigation.

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

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