Loyalist paramilitaries behind cross-border op to import high purity cocaine worth £180k, court told

Court told East Belfast UVF behind drug smuggling operation.

A loyalist paramilitary unit was behind a cross-border operation to import high purity cocaine worth up to £180,000 into Northern Ireland, the High Court has been told. Prosecutors claimed the drugs were brought up from Dublin in a smuggling racket involving the East Belfast UVF. Details emerged as bail was refused to a 29-year-old window cleaner accused of taking delivery of the illicit consignment late last year.

Colin Garrett, of Upper Newtownards Road in Dundonald, is charged with possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply. He was arrested following seizures made by the PSNI's Paramilitary Crime Task Force on November 24. Crown lawyer Mark Farrell said officers allegedly witnessed Garrett collect a bag from a car which had travelled from Dublin and carry it into a house in the Ballybeen estate on the outskirts of east Belfast. Police then entered the property, confronted the defendant upstairs and recovered two kilos of cocaine. A further quantity was seized when the driver of the car was stopped on the motorway near Moira, Co Down. Mr Farrell said: “The police view is this was associated with drug criminality within the East Belfast UVF. “It involved a cross-border operation where drugs were brought up from Dublin by a co-accused who met this applicant.” Mr Justice McFarland was told the illicit haul has a street value of between £150,000 and £180,000. Garrett’s renewed application for bail centred on the nine-month period he has now spent in custody. Defence barrister Conan Rea also argued that he is not charged with any paramilitary offences. But the judge stressed that if ultimately convicted, the accused will face a longer period behind bars. Denying bail to Garrett, he pointed out: “This was effectively two kilos of pure cocaine. There is no way he is time served.”

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