Two men have appeared in court charged with various offences in connection with the seizure of 14 kilos of cannabis and over £10,000 cash.
Both men were remanded in custody after appearing together before a special sitting of Londonderry Magistrate’s Court on Saturday.
Christopher Lavy (25) from Harper’s Quay in Londonderry was charged with possession of 14 kilogrammes of cannabis, possession with intent to supply, being concerned in the supply of the Class B drugs, concealing criminal property, namely £10,470, and transferring criminal property on September 22 (Thursday).
The self-employed car valet businessman was further charged with cultivating cannabis, possession of controlled drugs and possession with intent to supply, in connection with a follow up search at his home address on September 23 (Friday).
Michael Anthony Hughes (40) a self-employed barber from Oldtown Lane, Annalong in Newry meanwhile was charged with possession of cannabis, possession with intent to supply, being concerned in the supply of drugs, concealing criminal property, namely the £10,470 cash, and possessing criminal property.
Both men spoke briefly from the dock to confirm to District Judge Nigel Broderick that they understood the charges.
A PSNI Detective Constable said he could connect the men to the charges.
A solicitor acting on behalf of Hughes said there would be no application for bail at this stage while an issue concerning an address was being looked into.
In relation to Lavy, the PSNI Detective Constable said police were opposed to bail being granted.
He told the court that at around 7.01pm on Thursday evening, police observed a black Volkswagon Polo and a red Transit van in the Knockwellan Park/ Irish Street area of the Waterside.
He said that Christopher Lavy was seen going to the boot of one of the vehicles and carrying two bin liner bags out of it. Both vehicles were then observed driving out onto Crescent Link.
At 7.08pm, he told the court, police attempted to stop the Volkswagon Golf, but the driver attempted to evade police and collided with a parked car, causing minor damage to both vehicles.
A subsequent search of the vehicle, which police said Lavy was driving, resulted in 14 kilos of cannabis being found in the back, behind the driver’s seat.
Police have estimated that the drugs have a street value of £280,000, the court was told.
Lavy was arrested and taken to Strand Road PSNI Station, where police said he admitted exchanging cash for cannabis.
A red van, which police said was being driven by Hughes, was intercepted at Toomebridge by-pass at 8.24pm.
Following a search of this vehicle, police recovered a large amount of cash, which after being counted, amounted to approximately £10,470, the detective constable said.
He added that Hughes was questioned at length at Strand Road police station but had refused to answer any questions.
Police said that after an address for Lavy at Harper’s Quay was recovered following inquiries, police searched the property and found a “cannabis factory” at that location.
“There was a tent with a large number of plants inside. There was 32 plants inside it, with an estimated street value of £16,000,” the Detective Constable said.
He added that Lavy’s bank cards and documentation were found at the address.
He said that Lavy had given police a written statement in which he admits growing the plants.
Outlining his objections to bail, the Detective Constable said that they were concerned the defendant may abscond, and may admit further offences to recoup losses, and claimed Lavy was a “trusted member of an organised criminal network”, adding that granting bail may disrupt the investigation.
Applying for bail, Lavy’s solicitor said that forensics remained outstanding in the case.
He said that his client had made a number of admissions to police, and this was a case that was obviously going to go forward.
“This is a case that is going to take a considerable amount of time, 12 to 18 months,” he said, adding that Lavy was “a young man who comes before the court with an impeccable record”.
“He was also someone who was simply not on the police’s radar before this incident,” he said.
The solicitor also said that his client ran his own car valet business, and had lived his entire life in Londonderry with the exception of a two-week family holiday several years ago, and despite the offences, had the support of his family.
“In relation to interfering with investigation, I question how that can be the case. He has made admissions.”
He also said that a considerable number of the plants discovered were seedlings.
Police responded that eight of the plants may have only been a few inches tall, but the majority of the plants were four feet high.
The solicitor submitted that the judge had “a wide range of protective measures” at his disposal which would address the police objections to bail, including limiting internet and mobile phone access, all of which his Lavy had given assurances he would abide by. “The thought of going to jail petrifies him,” his solicitor said. “That is going to be a sword that is hanging over him.”
Judge Broderick said he had listened carefully to what the defence and PSNI had said, and told Lavy it was “not without significance you have made admissions to certain offences”.
He added however that he could not ignore the quantity and value of the drugs at the centre of the case, adding that “drugs are a scourge in our community”, and refused bail on the grounds that there was a risk of further offences and a risk that the defendant may not turn up for trial.
Both men were remanded in custody to appear back before the court via videolink on September 29.