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Phone texts 'link recycling boss to major drug deals'

Company director held after hacking of phone network

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Peter Loughran

Peter Loughran

Encrochat phone

Encrochat phone

Peter Loughran

THE director of a recycling firm has been accused of being in an organised crime gang importing cocaine and cannabis.

James McKee is the latest person to appear in court on charges arising from the cracking of the encrypted EncroChat mobile phone network.

District Judge Amanda Brady freed the 42-year-old on bail because of his wife's health problems, despite police concerns that he could flee to Spain, where he is known to have connections.

Craigavon Magistrates Court, sitting in Lisburn, heard that McKee, of Lyngrove Hill in Glenavy, faces five charges: four accusing him of being concerned in supplying cocaine and cannabis and conspiring with others to possess the class A and B drugs with intent to supply, and one of conspiring with others to transfer criminal property.

The father-of-two, who appeared in court via videolink from police custody, runs his own recycling firm, JMK Recycling Ltd, which is registered in Belfast.

Objecting to bail, a prosecutor said that while investigators had not found an encrypted phone, they had obtained data and messages which "can be attributed to him (the defendant) by reason of their content".

cannabis

The lawyer claimed that using the moniker 'liquid toxic', McKee had sent a "large number of messages referring to the importation and supply of class A and B drugs" involving 40 kilos of cannabis and payments of £250,000.

The prosecutor said the defendant could be linked to the messages because he had mentioned people with the same names as his wife and mother.

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Encrochat phone

Encrochat phone

Encrochat phone

The lawyer added that a CCTV recording of a meeting between 'liquid toxic' and another person included footage of a black Audi registered to the defendant.

They further pointed out that 'liquid toxic' had mentioned having nine points on his driving licence - as does McKee.

"We say he is part of an organised crime gang importing large quantities of drugs into Northern Ireland," the lawyer said.

"He is known to have links in Spain and other people in the same network as him have property in Spain. Other people are still to be apprehended."

A defence solicitor said his client's wife had serious health problems and that given the complexity of the investigation, it would be a considerable period of time before the case progresses.

District Judge Brady freed the defendant on bail but ordered him to surrender his passport, wear an electronic tag and report to police twice a week. He must also hand over his phone to the authorities if asked. The case was adjourned until August 24.

The cracking of the encrypted EncroChat network has led to hundreds of arrests across the UK.

Among those detained in Northern is the ex-GAA footballer Peter Loughran, who won the Sam Maguire Cup with Tyrone in 2003. He is accused of importing millions of pounds worth of cocaine and cannabis into Northern Ireland and laundering huge amounts of criminal money.

Belfast Telegraph