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Bail for man alleged to be part of ‘organised crime gang’ importing drugs into Northern Ireland

Objecting to bail prosecution had argued: 'Police are not satisfied he will abide by bail conditions and it is believed he has links to Spain'

A man who is alleged to be “part of an organised crime gang which is importing large amounts of drugs into Northern Ireland” has been granted bail.

Court the 42-year-old accused of a number of drugs related offences after police believed they could connect him to encrypted phone data.

James McKee, of Lyngrove Hill in Glenavy, appeared via videolink from police custody at Newry Magistrates’, sitting at Lisburn on Tuesday, facing five charges.

After confirming that he understood the charges, he was connected to them by a constable.

The accused is charged with being concerned in the supply of Class A, conspiracy to possess Class A with intent to supply, being concerned in the supply of Class B, conspiracy to possess Class B with intent to supply and conspiracy to transfer criminal property.

Defence solicitor Brendan Blaney made no question to the connection by the constable and informed the court that a bail application was being made on McKee’s behalf, which was opposed.

Outlining the case prosecution barrister Robin Steer stated that police had accessed the data of an encrypted phone which was using the handle “LiquidToxic”.

Police had not been in possession of the device but believed that they could connect it to the defendant “circumstantially”.

The data showed the user referring to his partner’s name, there had also been a meet up organised with another individual with the user stating they would be in a “black A6”.

Police collected CCTV of the meet up area, a black Audi A6 was observed and the licence plate of this allegedly matched a vehicle for which McKee was insured.

Mr Steer also stated that the password to the device allegedly included the name of the defendant’s daughter.

The data included messages referring to the supply and importation of Class A and B drugs; on one occasion there was mention of “40” cannabis which was assessed as meaning 40 kilograms.

There was also mention of large sums of money, on one occasion to the value of £235,000.

Mr Steer stated: “It is believed that this defendant is part of an organised crime gang which is importing large amounts of drugs into Northern Ireland.

“Police are not satisfied he will abide by bail conditions and it is believed he has links to Spain.”

However, he did then accept that other applicants who had been arrested as part of the same investigation into encrypted phones had since been granted bail.

Mr Blaney stated: “This is all part of a wider investigation and in the current climate this is going to take some time. Mr McKee had his home and property searched on July 27 whilst he was at work and handed himself into Musgrave.

“I believe with robust conditions, including him surrendering his passport given the prosecution concerns, bail could be granted given the length of time needed for a case of this complexity.”

District Judge Amanda Brady said: “I believe that Mr McKee is fairly committed to this jurisdiction. I feel if I refused bail he may get it in the High Court and if not he would spend a considerable amount of time in custody.”

The defendant was granted his own bail of £1,000, with conditions including that he is to surrender his passport, pay a cash surety of £5,000, wear an electronic tag,  sign at a police station twice a week and observe a curfew between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

The case was then adjourned until August 24 for an update.

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