Two Lithuanian nationals facing charges relating to the seizure of a substantial quantity of cocaine will face Crown Court proceedings next month.
A third male also faces an allegation in relation to cannabis.
All three defendants appeared at Newry Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday for the purposes of a preliminary enquiry (PE), the legal process during which a case is referred to the higher court.
Edmundas Gedvilas, 62, of no fixed abode, and Raimondas Zilionas, 40, of Gortmyre, Coalisland, are both charged with two counts possession of Class A, two counts possession of Class A with intent to supply, importing a controlled drug and being concerned in the supply of Class A.
Meanwhile, Zilionas and Remigius Vitkauskas, 29, of Mourne Crescent, also Coalisland, also face a further charge of possession of Class B.
As these charges were read, it was heard that all of the offences are alleged to have occurred on May 29 and 30, with the with substances referred to as cocaine and cannabis.
No facts were opened, however, at a previous hearing prosecution outline that on May 29, at 7.30pm, police stopped a vehicle on the Armagh Road, between Newry and Armagh.
Court was told that the vehicle was owned and driven by Gedvilas with Zilionas being a front seat passenger, and the men explained that they had been returning from visiting a friend in Dublin.
It was stated that police conducted a search, during which one kilogram of cocaine was located concealed under the carpet in the rear of the vehicle.
Prosecution submitted that this had a street value of around £60,000.
Gedvilas and Zilionas were arrested, making no reply to caution, and were conveyed to Lurgan custody suite.
Zilionas gave police a home address in Coalisland, however, when this was checked they spoke with his ex-partner, who said he did not live there and she had not seen him in some months.
Gedvilas gave another address in Coalisland, and police attended and spoke to Vitkauskas at this property.
He told officers that he lived at this address with Gedvilas and claimed not to know Zilionas.
During a search of this property, it was alleged police located a further £6,000 worth of cocaine in the kitchen along with a number of mobile phones and a set of scales in an upstairs bedroom.
A rucksack containing a vacuum packing machine and a small quantity of herbal cannabis were also seized, the court was informed.
Vitkauskas was subsequently arrested and taken to Lurgan police station.
When interviewed, Vitkauskas said he had been living in Northern Ireland for four years; he accepted ownership of the cannabis and said the scales were used to weigh this.
He told officers that he had a partner and child living in Lithuania, where he wished to return after the pandemic, but denied any knowledge of the cocaine found in the house.
Zilionas accepted that the cocaine found at the house was his and claimed to have bought the vacuum packing machine from “gypsies” 10 days prior.
He denied any knowledge of cocaine in the car and maintained he had been visiting a friend in Dublin.
Appearing via videolink from Maghaberry on Wednesday, the three defendants made no objection to the holding of a preliminary enquiry.
Prosecution submitted that based on the papers before the court there was a prima facie case to answer.
Defence counsels for the three accused made no contrary submissions.
District Judge Eamonn King was satisfied there was a prima facie case to answer and the defendants were remanded in custody with Vitkauskas to appear before Newry Crown Court on February 18 for arraignment and his co-accused to be arraigned at the same venue on March 25.
Sign Up To Our Newsletter
Sign up to our newsletter for major breaking news stories as they happen – right to your inbox.