Camlough raid thwarts alleged drug smuggling plot

April 27, 2015

A consignment of cannabis seized in Camlough on Thursday is part of a major drug smuggling operation crossing international boundaries, a district judge has said.

The haul was uncovered when a joint PSNI, National Crime Agency (NCA) and Gardaí operation led to the raid on a premises on the Newtown Road.

The 167kg drug shipment, with an estimated street value of more than £800,000, was concealed in cartons of orange juice.

Four men, three from the Birmingham area and the fourth from Wexford, were arrested at the scene and have been remanded in custody charged with a string of offences.

Initially valued at £400,000, a more detailed examination of the haul and its weight, has led to a new estimated value of over £800,000, the NCA revealed.

The four accused appeared before Newry Magistrates’ Court on Saturday morning where it was revealed the shipment was tracked through Spain, England and Ireland, before detectives from Reactive and Organised Crime swooped on the Camlough shed.

The accused are 36-year-old Chris Connaughton, of St Patrick’s Place, Enniscorthy, County Wexford, and Birmingham men Stephen Dainty (53) of Pool Farm Road, Alcocks Green, Mark Fleetwood (51) of Dingleside, Hall Green and Paul Green (62) Weatherfield Road, Tysley.

A lawyer for Mr Connaughton, in whose van the drugs were found, said his client was the “least-part player” and had merely agreed to collect unknown items using his van for a “200 euros cash-in-hand job”.

The court was told he parked the van at Damolly Retail Park in Newry, where it was picked up by “others”. The drugs were then allegedly loaded on in Camlough.

Flight records were revealed of connections from Birmingham to Dublin and Alicante in Spain using the credit card of Mr Fleetwood.

A lawyer for Mr Fleetwood said that he was the “patsy” of unknown contraband, “the camouflage in all this, used by others”.

A district judge said he was satisfied all four had a case in what he believed was a major drug operation crossing international boundaries.

“There has been a highly significant arrest involving drugs with evidence that the four defendants have played a part in a joint venture to conspire to bring drugs into this jurisdiction,” the judge said.

“I am refusing bail on the fear that the accused may interfere with evidence gathering in what is a live investigation.”

The four co-accused were remanded to appear via video link at Newry Magistrates’ Court on 29th April.