Three men from London allegedly stole thousands of pounds worth of equipment during raids on an Apple store in Belfast, the High Court heard today.
One of them claims he travelled over for a university open day, while his two co-accused said they were in the city to sample its nightlife.
Disputing prosecution submissions that Omar Hussein, Ibrahim Mohamed and Sharmaarke Ismail carried out a planned and sophisticated operation, a defence barrister portrayed the trio as academic high achievers who have never previously been in trouble.
Declan Quinn said: “They are three impressive individuals with no records who have got themselves in a world of pain by coming to Belfast.”
Hussein, 19, of Sumner Gardens; Mohamed, 20, from Brooke Drive in Lambeth; and Ismail, 19, of Berne Road, Croydon, are all charged with theft from the Apple Store at Victoria Square on September 28.
Goods valued at £1,565, £1,412, and £1,263 were allegedly stolen during two separate incidents.
Mohamed is further accused of going equipped for theft with a high-strength magnet, and criminal damage to a coat in a nearby Cruise store.
Ismail faces a separate count of stealing a £220 scarf from that shop.
Crown lawyer Natalie Pinkerton said the three men were arrested near the Victoria Square retail centre after police viewed CCTV footage.
Searches allegedly recovered a range of Apple products, including wireless headphone sets and disc drives.
During interviews Mohamed denied the thefts, claiming he had bought the goods found on him on Gumtree.
Opposing bail, Ms Pinkerton claimed the three defendants planned and researched the location of the shops they allegedly targeted.
“It would be the prosecution case this was somewhat sophisticated,” she added.
But according to Mr Quinn, Mohamed travelled alone by ferry to Belfast for an open day at the University of Ulster.
He met up with his two co-accused in Belfast but had “absolutely no idea” about the thefts, counsel insisted.
Judge Patrick Kinney was also told Ismail is studying for a marketing degree at Middlesex University, while Hussain studied forensic science and planned to go on to petroleum engineering.
“They flew over, they were here for a night out and to see the city,” Mr Quinn added.
Granting bail to all three accused, the judge held there was sufficient family support to deal with the risk they may not turn up for any trial.
“They are young, each pursuing different levels of educational careers,” he said.
He ordered them to live at addresses approved by police and banned any contact with each other.