Thursday July 11, 2019
Mohamed Hassan, 29, was arrested after suitcases full of khat were recovered in Belfast (stock photo)
A taxi driver was the alleged organiser behind a plot to import £500,000 worth of a banned stimulant seized in Belfast, the High Court has heard.
Mohamed Hassan, 29, was arrested after suitcases full of khat were recovered at the city's ferry terminal on April 11.
The plant, associated with use by sections of the Somali community, was made illegal in 2014 during Theresa May's time as Home Secretary.
According to prosecution counsel Conor Maguire 107 kilos with an estimate street value of £500,000 were seized.
He said the haul had been brought transported from Frankfurt through Dublin, and was destined for London.
Hassan, of Windrush Road in the English capital, was detained with four other men.
He faces charges of importing, possessing and conspiracy to supply Class C drugs.
Opposing bail, Mr Maguire contended: "The police view is that this applicant is the organiser of this importation."
But defence barrister Sean Doherty claimed it was "risible" to suggest his client was some sort of criminal mastermind.
He also argued that Mrs May had gone against the advice to experts when she decided to make khat illegal.
"This is a mild stimulant, there's not one iota of evidence the drug is harmful in any way," Mr Doherty said.
The judge, Mr Justice McAlinden, responded by pointing to the scale and value of the haul.
"It can be a very profitable enterprise, and that indicates the degree of social harm and criminality that is reflected in the wholesale importation of illicit drugs, whether it is Class C, Class A or Class B," he said.
However, he ruled that Hassan can be released on bail after the accused's uncle pledged to put up a £1,000 cash surety.