Drug accused ‘trusted member of crime gang’

Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66
Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66

A 42-year-old man who was shot by paramilitaries has appeared in court accused of being a ‘trusted member of an organised crime gang’.

The man, who cannot be named because of an anonymity order, faces a total of 12 drugs offences allegedly committed between September 2013 and August last year.

They include conspiracy to supply cocaine, conspiracy to supply cannabis and being concerned in the supply of the class A and class B drugs.

The anonymity order was imposed after District Judge Barney McElholm heard that allegations the defendant was shot by arrangement, that a number of co-accused have also been granted anonymity and there was a serious attempt on a co-accused’s life.

However, he said if anyone was convicted of such offences ‘that should be the end of the anonymity order’.

Derry Magistrates Court heard allegations the 42-year-old is a ‘trusted, highly valued and busy member of an organised crime gang’ importing and distributing cocaine and cannabis in Northern Ireland.

An investigating officer told the court police have carried out a covert operation investigating this crime gang and believe the defendant is connected to it.

He said police have seized drugs with an estimated street value of £2 million and alleged that they can link the 42-year-old to these seizures.

It is alleged the defendant was in contact with a co-accused, who used a ‘dirty phone’ throughout the duration of each drug importation which was then disposed of.

The officer further alleged that the defendant was in contact with two men who were arrested in possession of drugs.

The court was told he was ‘frantically trying to phone’ one of them as they were being arrested.

It is also alleged that the defendant’s fingerprint was found on packaging of seized drugs.

Opposing bail, the officer told the court police fear the man will leave the jurisdiction.

He said the 42-year-old was ‘shot by appointment’ in the past and ‘may have no option but to flee the jurisdiction for his own safety’.

The officer added police fear the man will re-offend.

Defence solicitor Maeliosa Barr told the court his client has no previous convictions and could be released on bail with stringent conditions.

District Judge Barney McElholm refused bail for fear of further offences and the defendant was remanded in custody to appear in court again at a later date.