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Newry man appears in court after UK’s biggest ever police operation against organised crime

A Newry man has appeared in court after he was arrested in connection to what police have described as the UK’s biggest law enforcement operation against serious and organised criminality.

The 64-year-old was detained on Thursday morning as part of more than two dozen searches carried out by the PSNI.

Bryan McManus, of Aileen Terrace, appeared via videolink from police custody at Craigavon Magistrates’, sitting at Lisburn, on Friday.

The accused faces nine drugs charges including; conspiring to fraudulently import Class A, conspiring to fraudulently import Class B, conspiring to produce Class B, being concerned in the supply of the class A, being concerned in the supply of the class B, conspiring to possess Class A, conspiring to possess Class B and two counts of possession of Class A.

He is also charged with possessing criminal property and conspiring to convert and conceal criminal property.

All of these offences are alleged to have been committed on dates between March 25 and June 15 this year.

The defendant confirmed he understood the charges against him and Detective Constable McDonald said he believed he could connect McManus to each of them.

Defence solicitor Joseph McVeigh informed the court that a bail application was being made on his client’s behalf which was objected to by the prosecution.

Outlining the facts, prosecuting barrister Robin Steer stated that detectives had been able to access a previously encrypted phone.

This was found to contain “a very large number of messages regarding the transport and shipment of very large quantities of drugs and cash”.

Messages on the encrypted device referred to sums of money up to £300,000 and to “cocaine testing kits and a metal press used to make blocks of cocaine”.

Detectives believed that they could connect McManus to the encrypted phone.

Mr Steer outlined that the user, who gave himself the handle “Foxnorth”, referred to his wife by name, having a black Seat Leon car and to a yard at Bulls Hill in Newry, all of which were true of the defendant.

Upon searching McManus’ home police located a red rug which matched an image on the previously encrypted phone, messages also referred to the user playing the saxophone and harmonica both were found at the property.

During searches police also found  “two small quantities of cocaine” but during interviews, the defendant denied any knowledge, claiming they “must have been left by others after a party”.

The prosecutor added: “Along with the risk of further offences, there is a risk of obstruction, we believe he is connected to a criminal network and there are ongoing investigations.

“There is also a risk he will fail to appear, he has access to very large amounts of money with which he would be able to sustain himself if he left the country”.

Mr McVeigh established that no money or any “high value items” such as “Louis Vuitton type stuff” had been found during the searches of his client’s home.

The detective constable confirmed that six mobile phones had been seized during their search but these were still to be accessed.

However, he did concede that he could not produce a device to the court and say that it was an “encro phone”.

Mr McVeigh also raised the point that another person arrested under the same investigation had been released on High Court bail.

This was confirmed by Mr Steer but he commented that this individual had “numerous health issues”.

Making his final submissions, Mr McVeigh stated that other than the small quantity of cocaine which was recovered, any case against McManus was “entirely circumstantial”.

He added: “I would ask the court to suspend any excitement, the encro phone is a hot topic at the moment, but there are 12 charges and this case is going to be nowhere near ready this side of New Year.

“This case is accepted as being a circumstantial one”.

District Judge Mark McGarrity stated: “I am aware that this defendant has a presumption to innocence, but in weighing up the evidence, I believe there is a risk of reoffending and I am refusing bail on that basis”.

The case was adjourned until July 31.

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