Enniscorthy man accused of drug smuggling refused bail
An Enniscorthy man charged with smuggling drugs worth £800,000 has been refused bail.
Chris Connaughton (36), of St Patrick's Place, Enniscorthy was charged with importing a controlled drug and conspiracy to fraudulently import a class B controlled drug.
A 51-year-old man, Mark Fleetowood of Dingleside, Hall Green, Birmingham, and a 62-year-old man, Paul Green of Weatherfield Road, Tyseley, Birmingham are both charged with fraudulently importing a class B controlled drug, possessing a class B controlled drug with intent to supply, conspiracy to fraudulently import a class B controlled drug, possession of a class B controlled drug and being concerned in the supply of a class B controlled drug.
A 53-year-old man, Stephen Dainty of Pool Farm Road, Alcocks Green. is accused of conspiring to fraudulently import a class B controlled drug.
Newry magistrates court heard that the four are charged in connection with an £800k international cannabis smuggling conspiracy a
They were arrested at 12.40pm on Thursday April 23, when a triple spearheaded surveillance operation swooped in on a white transit van suspected to contain almost a million pounds worth of class B drugs cocooned inside an orange juice stacked pallet.
During Saturday's court appearance all apart from Green made a bail application. Prosecution highlighted that no comment police interviews were given 'when appropriate' by all defendants.
The men were arrested after a joint PSNI, National Crime Agency (NCA) and An Gardai Siochana operation tracking an alleged triangular shipment of cannabis through Spain, England and Ireland connections.
The court heard that the alleged courier, Connaughton from Enniscorthy, was arrested at Damolly Retail Park in Newry with his white transit van.
The drug shipment was said to be under the guise of 'PNG FOODS-Newry.'
A PSNI detective objecting to bail said that the Wexford man had been signed up in a Wexford public bar by his co-accused to collect the illicit merchandise.
The van was alleged to have been picked up at the shopping complex and brought to a 'unit' in the nearby south Armagh village of Camlough, where the 167kg of suspected cannabis was loaded on by a forklift truck.
The magistrates heard that several pallets of orange juice cartons shipped in from Spain encased the 'class B drugs' allegedly found by the NCA.
Defence for Connaughton, said his client was the least part player and had merely agreed to collect unknown items using his van for a '200 euros cash in hand job'.
Flight records were revealed of connections from Birmingham to Dublin and Alicante in Spain using the credit card of self-employed wooden floor layer, Fleetwood. The trip to Ireland noted as a 'lads' visit in court.
Counsel for Fleetwood argued that he was the 'patsy' of unknown contraband 'the camouflage in all this...used by others'.
District judge Paul Copeland said he was satisfied that there was a case against the co-accused in what he believed was a major drug operation crossing international boundaries.
'There has been a highly significant arrest involving drugs with evidence that the four defendants have played a part in a joint venture to conspire to bring drugs into this jurisdiction,' said Mr Copeland.
"I am refusing bail on the fear that the accused may interfere with evidence gathering in what is a live investigation,"' added the magistrate
The four co-accused were remanded to appear via video link at Newry magistrates on April 29.