Northern Ireland

Mid-Ulster crime gang 'took huge financial hit', court told

Drugs accused
Image caption Father and son Paul and Stephen Currie were arrested at the weekend

Police believe an organised crime gang in mid-Ulster involved in bringing large quantities of drugs into Northern Ireland has taken a huge financial hit.

Officers recovered 40kg of cannabis resin, 1kg of cocaine and 25kg of a mixing agent used to cut it down in a County Tyrone lay-by on Saturday.

They seized the drugs after observing a lorry and a car pull into the lay-by between Dungannon and Ballygawley.

More drugs and cash were seized in follow-up searches.

In Desertmartin, 11kg of cannabis resin and 3kg of herbal cannabis were found at a house.

Searches at a number of properties in Cookstown led to £82,000 in cash being recovered.

On Monday, three men appeared in court in Enniskillen - including a father and son - to face a number of drugs charges.

Paul Joseph Currie, 53, from Limekiln Lane in Cookstown, faces three charges; Stephen Currie, 29, from Old Park Mews, Cookstown, and Darren William Fredrick Loughlin, 39, from Gortacar Road in Kesh, each face six charges.

A detective told the court that police observed a lorry driven by Mr Loughlin that had arrived in Northern Ireland from Scotland by ferry on Saturday morning.

'Drugs removed from cab'

They watched as the lorry pulled over in the Killymaddy tourist amenity near Ballygawley and a silver Peugeot car, driven by Stephen Currie, drove alongside.

The detective told the court that drugs were removed from the cab of the lorry and placed in the boot of the car.

At the same time police stopped Paul Currie after he left a property in Park Avenue in Cookstown.

The detective told the court that £2,000 was found in his car and £80,000 in cash inside the property.

It was also revealed that searches of a property at Luney Lane in Desertmartin, rented by Stephen Currie, had uncovered 11kg of cannabis resin, 3kg of herbal cannabis, a vacuum-pack machine, weighing scales and a grinder.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The drugs and cash were seized at a number of occasions at the weekend

He said police believed the three men were involved in bringing large quantities of drugs into Northern Ireland for distribution.

The officer said that the 1kg of cocaine had a street value of about £60,000, but when cut with the 25kg of the mixing agent it would have a potential value of £1.5m.

The 50kg of cannabis resin had a value of £500,000 and the 3kg of herbal cannabis £40,000, the detective added.

'No comment'

When questioned at a Belfast police station, Paul and Stephen Currie gave "no comment" interviews.

Mr Loughlin admitted that he had driven the lorry to Ballygawley, but denied any knowledge of the drugs, or his co-accused.

His solicitor applied for bail and said that his family, who were in the court, were "shocked" that he had been arrested for this.

He said he was married with three children and, as the main bread-winner, they were very concerned that they could lose their house.

The judge said he was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence for him to be charged and he refused bail on the grounds of the risk of further offences.

The judge said "anyone who involves themselves in the illegal possession and importation of drugs can expect to be dealt with vigorously by the courts, particularly given the value and quantities involved in this case".

Mr Loughlin was remanded into custody until 7 December.

Paul and Stephen Currie did not apply for bail, but their solicitor asked that they appear by videolink at Dungannon Court on Wednesday 16 November.