Londonderry drugs accused ‘under threat from dissidents’

The defendant, who faces 17 charges, has been granted anonymity
The defendant, who faces 17 charges, has been granted anonymity

The alleged mastermind behind a multi-million pound plot to smuggle drugs into Northern Ireland is not safe anywhere in his native Londonderry, the High Court has heard.

Prosecutors claimed the 33-year-old remains under threat from dissident republicans who targeted him in a gun attack seven years ago.

The accused, who has been granted anonymity, later moved to live in England.

He was refused compassionate bail for a temporary return to Londonderry to visit his seriously ill mother and father in law.

Citing fears that he could flee or come under attack, Mr Justice Horner said: “There’s a real concern for his safety.”

The defendant faces 17 charges linked to an investigation into seizures of cannabis and cocaine being imported from Britain.

More than £2 million worth of drugs were recovered in six separate police raids between September 2013 and October 2014.

Although a total of 16 people have been charged with offences, it was claimed that he is at the head of the crime gang involved.

Philip Henry, prosecuting, said: “In terms of the tiers, this applicant is considered the principal of the entire operation.”

The court heard how the accused quit Londonderry in 2008 due to threats from dissident republicans.

He was shot at after moving first to the Irish Republic.

“Police instruct me that threat would remain live; as far as they know there wouldn’t be anywhere in Derry city for him to be safe,” the barrister contended.

He also claimed the accused’s continued bail applications highlighted the risk of flight.

“One could almost sense the air of desperation for any period of release,” Mr Henry added.

Kieran Mallon QC, defending, argued that his client has surrendered his passport – limiting any chance of leaving Northern Ireland.

He added: “The case against this particular applicant is one he disputes and fully intends to contest, it’s entirely circumstantial in nature.”

But refusing to grant a temporary release, the judge held: “There’s a real incentive for this man to flee the jurisdiction.”