Drugs gang linked to £400,000 seized from lorry in Armagh

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More than £400,000 in cash seized from a lorry outside Armagh is allegedly linked to a crime gang supplying drugs across Northern Ireland, the High Court has heard.

A police surveillance operation led to the money being recovered, together with luxury watches in follow-up searches at one suspect’s home, a judge was told.

Prosecutors claimed 31-year-old Conor Toal acted as a “conduit” for a still unidentified senior gang member referred to only as “H”.

Details emerged as Toal, of Oakridge in Armagh city, was refused bail on charges of possessing and transferring criminal property, along with entering into an arrangement to acquire criminal property.

He was arrested after police stopped a lorry being driven by another man on the Portadown Road on August 17 last year.

Bundles of sterling and euros in excess of £410,000 were found in bags inside the vehicle’s cab.

Toal is believed to have passed the cash packages to his co-accused at a meeting outside a gospel hall minutes earlier, it was claimed.

Crown lawyer Conor Maguire said: “The investigation involved surveillance of a group of individuals police say are part of an organised crime gang involved in the supply of controlled drugs throughout Northern Ireland.”

Toal was detained at his home, where further searches were said to have recovered another £4,690 in cash.

Four watches, including two made by Rolex, seized from the property have been valued at nearly £22,000 in total.

Mr Maguire also revealed that a device used to detect bugging equipment was found in Toal’s car.

One of two mobile phones confiscated during the operation allegedly contains evidence of contact between the defendant, the lorry driver, and a person listed only as “H”.

Toal claimed the money in his home was saving for a planned wedding, the court heard.

During interviews he told police that he agreed to hand over two bags in return for payment of around £100.

He claimed not to have known their contents and declined to say who asked him.

Opposing bail, Mr Maguire argued that he was more senior than the alleged courier role played by the lorry driver.

“Police would say this applicant is above that, and acts as a conduit for this person ‘H’, and there’s currently an investigation in respect of H’s involvement,” the barrister added.

Defence counsel insisted there was no evidence to back claims of a drugs link.

He argued that Toal should be released from custody due to delays in a case that may take another 12 months to complete.

Denying bail, however, Madam Justice McBride raised concerns about potential reoffending and interference with witnesses.