Four arrested as undercover police op targets heroin trade

Laganside Court Building
Laganside Court Building

Three men and a woman were remanded into custody yesterday as part of an undercover police operation targeting the heroin trade in Belfast.

The suspects were charged with various drugs offences following a series of raids on houses in the south and east of the city.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard the arrests on Wednesday were the first stage in what is expected to be a protracted investigation.

Appearing together in the dock were Lithuanian nationals Roman Michailov, 22, and 37-year-old Gintas Vengalis.

Both men face charges of possessing heroin with intent to supply.

Vengalis, with an address at Tavanagh Street in Belfast, is further accused of being concerned in the supply of class A drugs at various dates in January and February.

A detective claimed he was at the higher end of the alleged racket.

“He’s not so much hands-on in dealing drugs, but handing out to his foot soldiers to do the deals for him,” the officer alleged.

Opposing bail, he said Vengalis’ identity only came to light at the end of the operation.

“He’s got numerous aliases, fake passports and fake bank cards. This man could disappear if released,” he claimed.

Co-accused Michailov, of Chobham Street, Belfast, is also charged with supplying heroin and acquiring criminal property, namely £100 in cash.

He is alleged to have been a “runner” caught on CCTV footage handing a small drugs package to an undercover police officer, the court heard.

Defence barrister Michael Boyd, representing both Lithuanians, claimed police had created the alleged crimes.

“On my instructions people are being phoned up and pestered to sell drugs to undercover police officers and are refusing to do so,” he told the court.

“The evidence will be subject to very strong challenge.”

District Judge Fiona Bagnall refused bail to both men amid concerns they may reoffend or flee.

Earlier another man and a woman from Belfast appeared in connection with the same investigation.

Ciaran Toner, 34, of King Street, and Finnula Braniff, 25, from College Court Central, each face multiple charges including possession of heroin with intent to supply, acquiring criminal property and being concerned in the supply of class A drugs.

The were both also remanded into custody.

All four are due to appear in court again by video-link next month.