Northern Ireland news

Woman linked to £2.5m cannabis seizure has 'several identities'

Police seized cannabis worth £2.5m in east and south Belfast

A WOMAN allegedly linked to the seizure of more than £2.5m worth of cannabis in Belfast uses different identities, including being known as "Big Sister", the High Court heard today.

Prosecutors claimed Hua Chen was involved in renting properties where drugs imported from other countries were stored, including a potential connection with Canada.

Details emerged as the 34-year-old Chinese national, of no fixed abode, was refused bail over her suspected role in a crime gang distributing huge consignments.

Chen was arrested with four men during a police operation in south and east Belfast on November 29 last year.

Packages of cannabis were discovered at a property on Wellesley Avenue allegedly being used as a store house.

Officers then targeted a second address on Templemore Avenue were a further quantity was recovered.

Chen was not in that house, but was detained nearby, according to the prosecution.

She claimed to be in the area to buy a second hand bike.

Crown lawyer Kate McKay told the court the accused's true identity remains a mystery.

"Asked if she used any other names she said she is sometimes known as 'Big Sister'," she said.

Chen faces charges of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs and illegal entry to the UK.

Mrs McKay said: "Police believe she has a number of identities and these have been used to rent properties.

"Those properties are where the parcels containing the cannabis are then sent."

Setting out the scale of the alleged illegal activity, the barrister said 127 kilos were seized during the searches.

"That would have an approximate street value of over £2.5m," she said.

Defence counsel Declan Quinn argued that if any links are established between his client and the addresses she will have been "an unwitting victim of others".

"She is not someone with the trappings of wealth - jewellery, flash cars, or anything of that nature," he said.

Denying bail, however, Mr Justice McAlinden cited the seriousness of the alleged offences.

"There's a clear and obvious risk of flight," he said.

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