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'Gangster' brothers accused of running east Belfast meth lab

Filling station drive-off leads cops to Breaking Bad-style operation

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Vojtech Uricek who is accused along with his brother Mario of running a meth lab at Shimna Close, Belfast.

Vojtech Uricek who is accused along with his brother Mario of running a meth lab at Shimna Close, Belfast.

Vojtech Uricek who is accused along with his brother Mario of running a meth lab at Shimna Close, Belfast.

This is one of the brothers named in court as "Eastern European gangsters" who are accused of operating a deadly crystal meth lab just yards from a primary school and youth club.

Vojtech 'Vojo' Uricek (42) and his brother Mario Uricek (45) are currently behind bars on remand charged with being concerned in the production of a class A drug.

The Slovakian nationals, who appeared in Belfast Magistrates Court for an update on their case last week, were arrested at their home on Shimna Close in east Belfast after neighbours complained of a strange chemical smell.

But Sunday Life has learned that another reason took cops to the suspected crystal meth lab - of which the siblings deny any knowledge.

Four days before police raided the property, Vojo Uricek was involved in an incident at a service station during which he allegedly drove away having not paid for fuel.

The PSNI was provided with his vehicle registration by the business owners, giving officers further cause to call at his Shimna Close home which is right next to Cregagh primary school and youth centre.

When detectives arrived, the Uricek brothers were cleaning out the house into which they said they had recently moved.

They were arrested at the scene when a search uncovered quantities of suspected crystal meth and production equipment used to 'cook' the powerful and highly-addictive drug.

At a bail hearing last month, a Crown lawyer said the pair are believed to be linked to an Eastern European crime gang.

She revealed: "This type of crystal meth is a highly dangerous substance to produce. The chemicals are volatile, which could cause a risk of explosion.

"This was being made in a highly populated street, with a local primary school and park nearby."

A barrister for the Uriceks explained his clients were arrested while moving into the Shimna Close house, and they had no connection to the crystal meth production.

"There had been previous tenants at the property, and when (the two accused) moved in they were cleaning it out," he said. "They deny any involvement in any form of crystal meth factory."

The Uriceks' bail bid was rejected when Mr Justice O'Hara described their explanation for being at the property as "beyond credible". The judge said: "They were arrested by police in the house, which had a new form of highly addictive crystal meth plus manufacturing equipment.

"On the information before me at present it's impossible to think they were just cleaning out the house before they were about to move in."

The crystal meth lab busted by cops in east Belfast is believed to be the first of its kind discovered in Northern Ireland.

The drug, which is hugely addictive and keeps users awake for days, was made famous in the award-winning hit TV show Breaking Bad.

Crystal meth is considered niche in the UK and Ireland due to its expense and the availability of other cheaper illegal stimulants like ecstasy, cocaine and mephedrone.

The dishevelled state it leaves users in, including the 'meth mouth' side-effect that causes teeth to rot and fall out, is another reason for its unpopularity.

The drug is made by mixing amphetamines with other chemicals in hidden labs, like that raided by the PSNI on Shimna Close.

The process is dangerous and can cause explosions.  

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