A Rathfriland man accused of using his sister’s name and address to help import £120,000 of cocaine inside an ornamental garden Buddha has been denied bail.
Andrew Malcolm Dodds, 28, of Stewarts Crescent, appeared before Banbridge Magistrates’ Court – via videolink from police custody today (Thursday), charged with conspiring to fraudulently import a Class A drug, attempted possession of a Class A controlled drug and attempted possession of a Class A controlled drug with intent to supply, all between May 1 and June 15.
A prosecution solicitor told the court how the parcel – a well-wrapped large Buddha garden ornament – addressed to a woman in Rathfriland, was intercepted by UK Border Force.
“It is a hand-written label addressed to a young lady at an address in Rathfriland,” she explained.
Police obtained warrants to search the property where a female resident who is “quite candid” told them “‘my brother has been chasing me, he is expecting a parcel to be delivered, I’m guessing this must be it’.
“The young lady’s mother rings her son; he attends at the premises and there are a number of messages exchanged between the siblings in relation to the package arriving,” the prosecution solicitor added.
The court heard how Dodds arrives at the house, which he too resides at, presented himself to police and informed them that “he is the person they want to speak to in relation to the packaging”.
The defendant was interviewed over the course of a couple of days.
The prosecution added: “He accepts he is a recreational cocaine user; he says he was drinking at a Newry bar, once the Covid regulations had been lifted, and was approached by a man he had never seen before.
“They take cocaine together in the toilets and before he knows it, he has essentially agreed £2,000 to accept delivery of a package and to deliver it to an unused nightclub address beyond the Carrickdale.
“He can tell the police no more; he didn’t ask what was in the package but he accepted that it wasn’t going to be legitimate. He was doing it simply for the £2,000.”
Dodds is also disposed of his mobile phone, the court heard.
Prosecution continued: “He was asked about his mobile phone and his explanation to police was that ‘I panicked, I threw it out of the van as soon as I realised what was happening’.”
Detective Constable Dillon, of the PSNI’s Organised Crime branch, told the court that searches had been carried out in the area but had returned negative.
The prosecutor informed the court that Dodds told police he did not order the package, which had arrived from the Netherlands, and that he denied knowing what was actually going to be in it, however, he accepted offering his address as a postal drop off and agreed to transport it to an agreed location.
She added: “Again, he said he had no relationship with the person he claimed ordered the package and no way of contacting him or knowing his name. He denied covering up for anyone he knew and denied being under duress.
“I would say, under the circumstances, commission of further offences is a real possibility given the fact police are now in possession of £120,000 of alleged cocaine in which he is going to have to find a way of explaining to who he says is the mastermind behind this.”
Defence solicitor Louise Moley argued that her client presented himself to police once he became aware of the situation and that he “co-operated with police throughout his detention through a series of three interviews over two days”.
She added: “He gave a full account. To the extent he allowed searches to be conducted yesterday. He discarded the phone in a rural area and maybe due to the terrain that phone has not been located.
“He was insistent there would be nothing on that device which would implicate him any further beyond the extent which he accepted during the interviews. There is nothing on his record to suggest he is involved in any serious organised crime.”
Denying bail, District Judge Eamonn King, said: “He didn’t entirely cooperate with police because he disposed of his phone before he went to meet with police. He knew he was involved in a criminal enterprise. He may not have known the value or the depth, or the extent to which he is involved, but he is certainly involved in it. £120,000 street value of cocaine, he was involved in its importation to be distributed, to be sent out.
“This court on a very regular basis deals with organised crime, involving serious amounts of drugs, serious amounts of money, and this court has serious concerns with how deeply the drug culture is embedded within this society and I think this court sets out its stall; if you become involved in that, you take the consequences. Bail is refused.”
Addressing Dodds directly the District Judge, concluded: “Did you ever hear the expression, Mr Dodds, that ‘If you fly with the crows you’ll get shot at?'”
Dodds is due back in court on July 15.