Tayside and Central Scotland

Perth trucker to fight extradition over drug smuggling

A Perth lorry driver who is a suspected member of an international drugs gang is applying for legal aid to help fight his extradition to Belgium.

Solicitors acting for Raymond Urquhart claim the 51-year-old only has £950 to his name.

He is wanted by the Belgian authorities over his alleged involvement in shipping cocaine and MDMA across international borders.

A full extradition hearing will take place in Edinburgh on 1 May.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard how Urquhart's lawyer plans to contest Crown Office plans to send him to the European country to stand trial by securing cash from the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

Defence solicitor Stephen Mannifield told Sheriff Isabella McColl that Urquhart only has £950 to his name.

Mr Mannifield added: "Legal aid has yet to be approved."

The lorry driver was arrested by Police Scotland officers at his home in Perth last month.

Scottish detectives were executing a European Arrest Warrant that had been issued by their Belgian counterparts earlier the same week.

Telephone conversations

During a short hearing last month, Sheriff Alistair Noble heard how European policemen had listened into telephone conversations that the Scots lorry driver had with a Belgian man who wasn't named in open court.

They allegedly had conversations about fruit - but officers believe they were actually talking about drugs.

The court heard that the pair allegedly spoke to each other in September 2013 about a consignment of fruit.

Two weeks later, drugs squad detectives in the Netherlands seized a large consignment of MDMA, and detectives suspect that the telephone conversation actually referred to this shipment.

The court also heard that when policemen raided the Belgian man's house, they discovered a revolver and more than one kilogramme of cocaine.

Urquhart, who appeared from custody, spoke only to confirm his name and to confirm that he opposed extradition.

Depute procurator fiscal David Dickson told the court: "The authorities in Belgium wish to extradite him over the part he played in an international criminal gang involved in the importation to Scotland of cocaine."

Mr Urquhart's legal team asked for the court to grant him bail to his home in Perth, where he cares for members of his family who are in poor health.

They also want Urquhart's family to give evidence on behalf of their relative at a future court hearing.

Sheriff McColl refused to allow Mr Urquhart bail.

A procedural hearing with regard to the case will now take place on 17 April, before a full hearing on 1 May.

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