A forty-one-year-old Co Tyrone man has appeared in court on charges linked to the discovery of a vast cannabis haul with an estimated street value of £1.7 million.
Peter O’Connor of Loughdoo Road, Pomeroy is accused of possessing and being concerned in the intended supply of cannabis on October 8.
A detective from the PSNI Organised Crime Unit told Enniskillen Magistrates’ Court the charges could be connected.
He explained a search was conducted of O’Connor’s home during which officers uncovered 185 kilograms of herbal cannabis.
A Scania low-loader was also searched, which contained two JCB’s and a number of tyres in the rear in which the drugs had been secreted.
Objecting to bail the detective contended O’Connor appeared to be “living a lifestyle beyond his means, suggesting his involvement as a trusted and senior member of the organised crime group responsible for the drug supply”.
This was challenged by a defence solicitor who stated there was no substantiating evidence of this, emphasising his client lived in a house he built over 20 years ago with his partner and their four children, refuting claims of extravagant living.
The detective conceded O’Connor did not have a relevant criminal record, he expressed concerns his release could lead to further criminal activity, as he might have a substantial debt to repay.
He added: “The investigation is still in its early stages, and authorities are actively working to identify and apprehend other suspects involved. It is believed the defendant may have access to other phones, potentially allowing him to alert other individuals involved in this matter.”
The defence stressed O’Connor cooperated with police by surrendering his phone and PIN number, in order to “assist them in tracing the arrangements related to the drug shipment,” pointing out it may take months for the phone to examine the device thoroughly.
It was contended O’Connor had transported a load to Scotland on his truck and was returning with an empty vehicle.
“To maximise his profits, he had advertised his availability in a WhatsApp group consisting of over 1,500 members in the haulage business, detailing his intent to use the return journey for potential financial gain,” said the defence.
O’Conor had also provided information regarding the individual who had collected the load and the precise location of this transaction.
Despite assurances that O’Connor would comply with any conditions imposed by the court, District Judge Alana McSorley ultimately refused bail due to concerns about the risk of interfering with witnesses.
She remanded him in custody to appear again by video-link at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court on 1 November.