Seized drugs were worth up to £135,000, court hears

COCAINE found in the boot of a Mercedes near Banbridge which was seized by detectives was worth up to £135,000, Belfast High Court has heard.

Vitalij Furmaniuk from Lithuania was arrested at the scene on 11 January and is accused of trying to smuggle the drugs from the Irish Republic and faces charges of importing and possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply over the seizure.

The 32-year-old, with an address at Warren Park, Lisburn, was granted bail but banned from leaving Northern Ireland.

He was returning from Dublin with a woman when PSNI detectives stopped his car on the dual carriageway.

A parcel containing the cocaine was discovered in the area where the jack is kept.

Electronic scales and money bags were said to have been found during follow-up searches at Mr Furmaniuk’s home.

Defence counsel Conor Maguire said the accused told police he had gone to Dublin to collect an unidentified package and bring it into Northern Ireland.

“It’s likely given the circumstances in which the car was stopped and the involvement of the serious crime unit, that there was intelligence in respect of this,” Mr Maguire said.

“It’s likely they knew where the car came from and where it was going.”

The barrister claimed there was nothing to suggest his client has a major role in any drugs operation.

Responding to prosecution fears that Mr Furmaniuk may flee if released, he argued that the accused has lived in Northern Ireland for the last six years.

Before that he spent 10 years in Spain, working there as a doorman.

Granting bail by “a narrow margin”, Mr Justice McCloskey ordered Mr Furmaniuk to surrender any passports and national identity cards.

The judge imposed a curfew, electronic monitoring and sureties of more than £10,000.

Mr Furmaniuk was also banned from driving or being in any vehicle apart from public transport.