Bail denied to man at top of drugs pyramid

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The alleged head of a crime gang who tried to import drugs worth million into the Province must remain in custody, a High Court judge ruled on Thursday.

Mr Justice Maguire refused bail to former driving instructor, Declan Gallagher (32), formerly of Londonderry, after he was told Gallagher was at the top of a criminal pyramid with links to both loyalist and republican paramilitaries and had connections in Spain and could flee if released.

Gallagher faces 17 drugs-related charges between September 2013 and October 2014, that are linked to an investigation into a series of cannabis and cocaine seizures.

More than £2m in drugs have been recovered and 18 people charged as part of the ongoing probe.

The drugs operation had been traced to Londonderry, Belfast and Lisburn, it was claimed and, according to the prosecution, those involved in the alleged drugs-importation racket straddle both sides of the province’s sectarian divide and all the connections looked back to Gallagher.

Defence counsel sought his release based on the time spent in custody since his arrest last October.

It was argued that he was unlikely to get a date for any trial until 2016.

Refusing bail, Mr Justice Maguire pointed to prosecution submissions that a preliminary inquiry is expected by this autumn: “That would not be out of line with many cases where there is complexity.”

This is a case of some complexity.”