Loyalist paramilitary group working with organized crime gangs in Republic to transport cocaine north, court said
A loyalist paramilitary group is working with organized crime gangs in the Republic to import cocaine into the north, a detective said.
Testifying in Newtownards Magistrates’ Court, where two men appeared for drug-related offenses, the paramilitary crime task force officer said police then believed a man had ties to the ‘East Belfast UVF.
The other man, he said, “is linked to an organized crime gang in the Republic of Ireland” and they were working together “to import cocaine into various parts of east Belfast”.
Appearing separately via video conference from custody, David John Ghent (41), taxi driver from Hollyfields in Dungannon, and Colin Joseph Garrett (29), from Upper Newtownards Road in Dundonald, confirmed that they understood the accusations.
Ghent faces five counts, including possession of cocaine, possession of class A drugs with intent to supply, supply of cocaine, importation of cocaine and possession of criminal property while Garrett faces three counts, including possession of cocaine, possession of class A drugs with intent to provide and simple possession of class B cannabis, all alleged to have been committed on November 24 of this year.
In disputed bail requests, the detective told the court how the couple were arrested, in Ghent in Moira and Garrett in east Belfast, in a PCTF “proactive operation” that resulted in the seizure of cocaine estimated at around £ 180,000.
According to the police case, Ghent “traveled from Dublin” to an address in east Belfast and officers watched Garrett leave the property, retrieve a package from the taxi and reenter. As Ghent was leaving this scene, he was arrested in Moira shortly after and during a search of his car, a packet of cocaine was located.
Returning to Garrett, the officer said police must have forced entry to the address and in doing so he was seen running upstairs and into a room in the back where he threw a package out the window.
It was cocaine which the police suspect to have “a high purity content”.
The officer told the court that police objected to either man being released on bail.
Despite observations by defense advisers Craig Patton and Conan Rea that bail conditions could be met, District Judge Mark Hamill said given the “harmful mix of organized crime and paramilitary involvement” , he refused release on bail and detained the couple until December 22.