Three men who allegedly “flooded” Belfast with Diazepam tablets have appeared in court charged with numerous drugs offences.
Liam Francis Clarke, Paul Gerard McClafferty and Shah Ali appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Saturday over the alleged illegal supply of prescription drugs into Northern Ireland.
A detective told the court that analysis of data from seized mobile phones showed that the men had “flooded” Belfast and other parts of the UK with Diazepam.
Clarke, 21, of Ardoyne Road in north Belfast, faced a total of 13 charges, including conspiracy to supply and possession of Diazepam, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines and Ecstasy between March 2013 and April 2015.
He faced further charges of converting criminal property, namely cash, and possession of a handgun and ammunition in suspicious circumstances.
McClafferty, 33, of Glenview Street in north Belfast, was charged with one count of conspiracy to supply Diazepam and one count of being concerned in the supply of Diazepam between August last year and April this year.
Shah, 22, faced four charges including conspiracy to supply and being concerned in the supply of Diazepam and converting criminal property between August last year and April this year.
He was arrested on Thursday last week at a house on Burnfield Road, Stoke-on-Trent and brought to Northern Ireland where he was charged on Friday.
A fourth man sought in connection with the investigation is still at large.
A detective from the Organised Crime Branch told the court that in August last year three large boxes containing 30,000 Diazepam tablets were intercepted at a Parcel Force depot in Belfast.
Further searches at an address in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast in October last year recovered mobile phones which contained thousands of texts regarding the exchanging of Diazepam tablets.
The detective said that Shah admitted during interview to supplying large amounts of Diazepam to Northern Ireland and Scotland purely for his own financial gain, saying it was “easy money”.
Shah’s solicitor said that when his client realised he was in “too deep” he tried to get out but men “higher up the food chain” said it wasn’t something he could “dip in and out of”.
Objecting to bail, the detective said that if Clarke and McClafferty returned to the Ardoyne area, republican paramilitaries may seek to make an example of them.
A defence solicitor for Clarke suggested restrictions could be placed on the case to prevent their names being reported, however District Judge George Conner said it would be naïve to think their names would not become known.
All three were remanded in custody to appear again on May 14.