Largest ever herbal cannabis seizure smuggled in from Spain, court told
NORTHERN Ireland's largest ever herbal cannabis seizure was allegedly smuggled in from Spain, the High Court has heard.
Prosecutors revealed details of the £1.3 million consignment's suspected route across Europe as a haulier accused of being an "organiser" applied for bail.
Police believe James McAleese hired the trailer used to transport the concealed drugs.
The 42-year-old, of Hill Street in Dundalk, Co Louth, is accused of fraudulently importing cannabis, possessing the Class B drug with intent to supply, and being concerned in its supply.
Officers discovered 66 kilos packed inside a fuel container at a property on Ballynaris Lane, Dromore, Co Down on March 30.
According to the Crown case Niall Mallon (38) who lives at the address, and 32-year-old Kevin McPolin, of Edenderry Park in Banbridge, brought the drugs from Dublin into Northern Ireland.
They both face similar importation and possession charges.
Prosecution counsel Kate McKay claimed telephone evidence links McAleese to hiring the trailer for the drug-smuggling plot.
She told the court he travelled to London on the day of the seizure and only returned five days later.
"Police believe he's part of this organised criminal gang responsible for importing large quantities of herbal cannabis across Europe," she said.
"It involved moving a container from Barcelona to Dublin and then to Northern Ireland."
The court was told Mallon, who has already been granted bail, allegedly acted as a courier.
But opposing McAleese's bid to be released from custody, Mrs McKay contended: "This man is an organiser, police would assign a more serious role (to him)."
Defence barrister Michael Ward disputed the allegations, describing the police case against his client as "tenuous".
He argued: "There's no evidence to link him to the address where the drugs were found."
Mr Ward said McAleese had flown to London in connection with his work within he haulage industry.
He added that a £5,000 cash surety was available.
Adjourning the application, Mr Justice Colton requested more information about the guarantee being offered before making a decision.