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South Armagh man who had cars seized in Europe-wide crime probe refused bail

Objecting to bail prosecution said the accused was believed to be 'part of a large network moving large quantities of drugs cross border'

A Jonesborough man who is charged with the supply of Class A and Class B drugs in connection to encrypted phone data has been refused bail.

The application was made on the 33-year-old’s behalf with his wife expecting their third child, however, a prosecuting barrister alleged “persons connected to the defendant” had “actively frustrated” ongoing police investigations.

William John Hewitt, of Lower Foughill Road, appeared for the purposes of a bail application at Newry Magistrates’ on Wednesday via videolink from Maghaberry.

The defendant is charged with being concerned in an offer to supply Class A, being concerned in an offer to supply Class B, entering an arrangement to acquire criminal property and conspiracy to fraudulently import Class B.

At an earlier bail application, prosecution barrister Robin Steer said the charges relate to encrypted data on encrypted handsets obtained by police last year.

Court heard, on that occasion, that the handsets cost in the region of £1,200 to £1,500 each, with them lasting for around six months.

Mr Steer outlined that the user of the handset in question had the handle “eagletoxic” and that police had reason to suspect this as being the defendant.

In two messages, the user is alleged to have stated his own name, in one commenting: “There is only one Hewitt….as rare as my car collection.”

Mr Steer stated there was also a picture which appeared to show Hewitt in a bath wearing a “crucifix necklace” along with images resembling the exterior of his home.

During searches conducted at a shed police seized nine classic cars with a further four being taken from the defendant’s home.

A notebook was also found behind a microwave in Hewitt’s home which prosecution claimed contained slang terms for drugs, often used on encrypted messages.

Mr Steer stated there were also notes of “very large amounts of money” totalling in the region of £2 million.

He submitted that Hewitt was believed to be “involved in drug dealing at a very high level and part of a network”.

On Wednesday, Mr Steer told court that the defendant had accepted the male in the bath was himself and also admitted ownership of the notebook, although he could not explain what it related to or why it had been hidden.was

Outlining objections, he stated that Hewitt was believed to be “part of a large network moving large quantities of drugs cross border”, with him commenting that places named in messages included Dublin, Holland, England and Spain.

Mr Steer accepted that most persons charged as part of Operation Venetic had since been granted bail but contended that this was an ongoing police investigation.

The barrister also submitted that whilst more vehicles had been seized as part of this, “persons connected to the defendant” had “actively frustrated” investigations.

Mr Steer stated that Hewitt had been refused High Court bail on March 5 and that at that time the main thrust of this bail application, the impending birth of the defendant’s third child, was known.

He commented: “I accept that the birth of a child is a very important event….police had endeavoured to have all investigations completed but that has not been done.”

Defence barrister Kevin Magill submitted that his client could not have “frustrated” investigations while he was in Maghaberry and that his bail status was of “no relevance”.

He also informed the court that Hewitt’s family were prepared to sign a surety of £10,000 to ensure his release.

Refusing bail, Deputy District Judge Anne Marshall noted the impending birth but stated: “I am not persuaded that there are suitable bail conditions to assuage the risk of reoffending or interference in the investigation.”

The case was adjourned until April 28 for an update.

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