Cannabis haul ‘sent from Belgium and hidden in coffee granules’

Herbal cannabis
Herbal cannabis

Nearly £30,000 worth of herbal cannabis seized in Belfast was sent from Belgium hidden among coffee granules, the High Court has heard.

Prosecutors revealed the method of concealment as bail was granted to the alleged head of a sophisticated plot to post the drugs across Europe.

Court

Court

Patrick McGettigan is to be released from custody despite claims he could flee to Thailand.

The 47-year-old, with an address at a hostel on Belfast’s Saintfield Road, denies charges of conspiracy to import Class B drugs and attempted possession with intent to supply.

The allegations relate to the seizure of 1.4kg of herbal cannabis in Skegoneill in the north of the city on March 8.

Police intercepted a package sent from Southampton through Royal Mail to the address of a co-accused.

Conor Maguire, prosecuting, told the court that the parcel contained two smaller boxes originally posted from Brussels.

“Police described the cannabis as being skilfully packaged in coffee granules secured around the outer packaging and inner packaging of the cannabis in an attempt to avoid potential detection,” he said.

The drugs recovered have an estimated street value of between £14,000-£28,000.

According to Mr Maguire a co-accused told police that a man called Paddy McGettigan asked him if he knew anyone to whom a parcel containing Viagra pills wrapped in training gear could be sent.

The case against McGettigan is said to involve telephone traffic, cell-site analysis and travel bookings.

“Given the nature of the investigation and the information retrieved to date, it’s the police view that this applicant is the organiser of this importation, he’s the main player, police would say, and it’s a relatively sophisticated operation,” Mr Maguire contended.

It was disclosed that McGettigan has a wife and children in Thailand, fuelling prosecution concerns that he may attempt to move back there.

Defence barrister Kelly Doherty rejected claims her client has lived in Thailand for 10 years.

She said McGettigan left Northern Ireland in 2013 due to a tiger kidnapping incident, and met his wife while on holiday.

Although he subsequently worked in Thailand as a tour guide and selling houses, Ms Doherty said the accused’s family plan to move to Northern Ireland.

Granting bail, Mr Justice Burgess held that efforts by McGettigan to secure housing for his wife and children point to his “deeper roots in society”.

The judge banned him from using a mobile phone, the internet or applying for a passport.