Herbal cannabis wrapped in leather trousers, court hears

Belfast High Court Building
Belfast High Court Building

Herbal cannabis worth up to £450,000 was packed in boxes of leather trousers to disguise its smell, the High Court heard yesterday.

Prosecutors said the drugs were seized following a surveillance operation centred on a house in east Belfast.

Details emerged as bail was refused to a Vietnamese woman accused of being part of the crime operation.

Thuy Nguyen, 39, with an address at Orient Gardens in the city, faces charges of conspiracy to supply cannabis and possession with intent to supply.

She is also accused of converting criminal property, namely cash to the value of £29,535.

Nguyen was arrested along with a Chinese man last month after police raided a house at Hollycroft Avenue.

Officers found 17kg of herbal cannabis with an estimated street value of £340,000 in an upstairs bedroom, the court was told.

Prosecution counsel Conor Maguire said the drugs were in vacuum-sealed bags, wrapped in pairs of cream leather trousers and packaged in cardboard posting boxes.

Police also searched other properties in the city as part of the investigation.

Another 2kg of cannabis, more hold-alls and leather trousers were seized from a property at Ebor Street, the court heard.

Two men have also been charged in connection with the drugs haul.

Mr Maguire confirmed inquiries are continuing and further arrests expected.

It was claimed that Nguyen is an illegal immigrant who travelled to Northern Ireland from England to sign a tenancy agreement for one of the houses.

Surveillance footage allegedly depicts her receiving parcels containing the herbal cannabis at the Hollycroft Avenue address.

She acknowledged it is her in the recording but denies knowing about the drugs.

Mr Maguire told the court: “It’s the police view that the leather trousers were being used to package the cannabis to cover the smell of the drugs.”

Ian Turkington, defending, challenged prosecution claims that Nguyen may not turn up for trial if released.

Her Israeli boyfriend works in a casino and was ready to put up a £5,000 cash surety on her behalf, the barrister disclosed.

But refusing bail, Mr Justice Treacy cited the risk of flight.

The judge added: “She appears to be (on the Crown case) a not insignificant part of a complex and major drugs operation.”