06/04/2009

'Ikea Five' Remanded On Drugs Charges

Two Dublin residents are among the five men charged with having cannabis worth £700,000 at east Belfast's Ikea store.

Lester Keating, 40, of Cornduff Road, Blanchardstown and Paul Bennett, 21, from Ashwood Drive, Clondalkin, appeared in court in Belfast today.

They were remanded in custody along with their co-defendants, Ciaran Parker, 27, of Westrock Road, Belfast, Kevin Sullivan, 26, from Lakeglen Parade, Belfast and William Clarke, 40, of Stump Road, Ballywalter, Co Down.

The drugs were recovered during a well planned police operation near the Ikea store on Friday.

The court heard that several sealed brown boxes, containing herbal cannabis, were found in a car during what the PSNI described as an "intelligence-led operation".
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Two of the five men had earlier applied for bail, but it was refused as an officer said the financial loss incurred by the seizure of the drugs could lead the defendants to re-offend and concerns they may leave Northern Ireland if released.

All five men are charged with possession and intent to supply cannabis.

The court heard the drugs were found as they were being moved from one car to another.

Officers also found £5,000 in cash hidden under a spare wheel.

The high-profile drugs bust was earlier applauded by a local MLA.

Robin Newton, the East Belfast DUP Councillor and MLA said the PSNI success in last week's operation making arrests and taking £700,000 of illegal drugs off the street is worthy of congratulations.

"The well-planned police operation at the Holywood Exchange shopping complex will be a boost for the morale of the public and the police in the fight against these dealers in death," he commented.

"As an east Belfast elected representative I wanted to express a hearty 'well done' to the officers concerned and voice my support for their hard work in taking those involved in this dreadful drugs trade off the streets."

(BMcC/JM)

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