Builder ‘babysat’ £100,000 worth of cannabis to repay ‘sinister elements of Dublin’, court heard


A Co. Armagh bricklayer appeared in court today charged with having cannabis and criminal money worth nearly £200,000.

Isburn Magistrates Court heard Stephen Connell, 40, was ‘keeping’ the cash and nine kilos of herbal cannabis in order to pay off a debt after borrowing money from ‘sinister elements’ in Dublin.

Connell, of Cloughreagh Park in Bessbrook, appeared in court via video link from police custody, confirming he understood all six charges against him, including three drug offenses and three criminal property allegations .

The father of four is charged with possession of cannabis, possession of the class B drug with intent to supply and being involved in supplying cannabis in addition to two counts of possession of criminal property and one conversion of criminal assets, namely “high-value watches and cannabis”, all allegedly committed on May 1 this year.

Testifying during a contested bail application, a police officer explained how cops searched two properties in Bessbrook, first Connell’s home and his late parents’ home in Oakview Close.

In a van parked outside Connell’s home, police seized nine kilos of ‘harvested cannabis leaf in sacks, with an estimated street value of £100,000’, the officer said, adding that in a second van parked in the driveway of the other property, cops found £50-80,000 in cash.

In addition, a number of ‘highly valuable watches’ were discovered at the Cloughreagh Park address, although he admitted their value ‘may be questionable’.

Arrested and cautioned, Connell “made significant statements about possible money issues involving people from Dublin” and in subsequent police interviews he gave a prepared statement claiming he had borrowed money. money” not by regular means… and that’s where it all started and he was put in possession of all these things for someone else.

Opposing bail, the officer said police fear further offenses will be committed as the seizures represent a ‘significant loss’, there was also the ‘risk of harm to the community’ in the sale and supply of drugs the more “there is a risk of harm”. to the defendant himself in terms of who he owes money to.

“We don’t know who he owes the money and the drugs to and we don’t know what risk his presence at home will pose to his family.”

Defense barrister Kevin Magill has revealed that building contractor Connell owes a client £400,000, a bill that still remains unpaid, so he borrowed money from ‘sinister elements and that left him put under pressure”.

“There is no paraphernalia to support the claim that he is a genuine dealer,” the lawyer said and suggested that, given his confession during the interview, “it is clear that this could be dealt with as part of the advancement of criminal cases” to be expedited.

Arguing that whoever had the money and cannabis was highly unlikely to use Connell again given that he was now “on police radar”, Mr Magill further argued that the Mason “is a suitable candidate for bail with strict conditions”.

“We are talking about substantial sums of money and a substantial amount of drugs,” District Judge Eamon King said, “these are serious matters and he will have to live with the consequences of his involvement and it could lead to a possible eventual custodial sentence.”

He said it was “particularly relevant” that Connell had four children, each of whom “could be a client for drug dealers”.

Freeing Connell on his own bail of £2,500 with an additional bail of £2,500 cash to be posted with the court, DJ King ordered the defendant to surrender his passport and report to police three times a week.

The case was adjourned to May 18.

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