Northern Ireland news

Man (49) and woman (38) to be deported to China after jail term for drugs offences

Mei Juan Gao and Chun Guo Pan were jailed at Belfast Crown Court for the roles they played in a drugs operation

A 49-year-old man and 38-year-old woman will be deported to China after serving a prison sentence for drugs offences, a court has heard.

Mei Juan Gao and Chun Guo Pan were both jailed at Belfast Crown Court today.

Gao was given a 30-month sentence and Pan 20 months, divided equally between prison and licence.

The pair were arrested in Belfast last August and subsequently admitted several charges including conspiracy to supply a Class B drug.

The addresses for both were given as no fixed abode.

Prosecutor Simon Jenkins said on August 8 police attended an address at St Albans Gardens after receiving information drugs were being moved.

Officers observed Gao leaving the property and getting into a taxi carrying a large bag.

Police stopped the taxi and he was found to be in possession of 9kgs of cannabis.

A set of house keys for a flat at Ulsterville Avenue were also seized from her, and when police went there they discovered a further 4kgs of cannabis, along with a fake Chinese passport.

Mr Jenkins said while officers were conducting the search, Pan entered using a set of keys. He also had keys to a second property, and when that was searched a further 26kgs of cannabis was located.

When Gao was arrested, she said she would be contacted and told to go to a hotel and pick up packages. She said she used fake ID and was paid £500 for each package she picked up.

Investigating officers viewed CCTV from the properties and saw Pan carrying a holdall. When arrested, he accepted taking the bag from the address to an 'unknown male' in the centre of town.

Mr Jenkins said Pan also made the case that he was "employed to do things by others", with police concluding that he "was involved in monitoring or distributing" the cannabis.

The prosecutor branded Pan's role as "subordinate... in a big operation", adding that both he and Gao "were acting under instruction from those above, but also trusted given the high levels of the drugs".

Neil Connor QC, representing Gao, said she came to the UK illegally "for economic reasons" and any money made was sent back to her mother and teenage daughter in China.

He said Gao "will be returning to China as soon as possible" and will not be fighting deportation proceedings.

Pan's barrister, Brian McCartney QC, said his client was a father-of-two who also wanted to go back to China and see his family.

He described Pan as a vulnerable man with a gambling habit who was exploited by others, adding that he played a small role in a bigger enterprise.

Judge Patricia Smyth said she accepted both Pan and Gao "acted under instruction". She jailed the pair, and issued a destruction order for the drugs.

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