Two men have been ordered to stand trial accused of being heavily involved in significant money laundering and drug deals as part of alleged organised crime.
While both Michael O’Loughlin, Warrenpoint, and Rory Trainor (45), from Newry, face a litany of drug and criminal property offences, 42-year-old O’Loughlin is also accused of conspiring to murder, soliciting murder and conspiring to possess a firearm.
Between them they face a total of 84 offences but are only joint co-accused on four money laundering offences where they are accused of conspiring together to convert or transfer a total of £153,000.
Appearing at Newry Magistrates Court by video link from prison on Wednesday, O’Loughlin, originally from Galway but with an address on the Upper Dromore Road in Warrenpoint, faces 45 accusations including 29 drug offences.
It is alleged that he was involved in conspiracies to import, supply and possess heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis and nine offences of money laundering in that he was allegedly involved in conspiracies to transfer or convert criminal cash amounting to £265,500 and 25,000 Euro.
O’Loughlin is also charged with conspiring to murder a man named only as Johnny, conspiring to solicit murder, encouraging or assisting murder and with conspiring to possess a firearm, namely a CZP10.
Trainor, from Dunbrae in Newry, faces 39 charges including 20 drug offences of conspiring to import, supply or possess cocaine and cannabis and 19 money laundering offences relating to the transfer or conversion of a total of £1,404,700.
All of the offences on the indictment are alleged to have been committed on dates between March 27 and June 9, 2020 and although none of the facts were opened in court, previous courts have heard how the charges arise following a Europe-wide investigation into organised crime and previously encrypted phone data and messages.
Known as Operation Venetic, the French police were able to decipher messages and data on the Encrochat network and disseminate that material to police forces across Europe who in turn conducted hundreds of searches and arrests.
In Northern Ireland there was a joint operation between the National Crime Agency and the PSNI which has resulted in 30 men facing charges and although in most cases the authorities do not have the physical encro handset, they maintain they can connect the defendants to the seized data by the contents.
In court, it took the court clerk 10 minutes just to read out the charges during the preliminary enquiry, the legal process which every case must undergo in order to be lawfully elevated to the Crown Court.
A prosecuting lawyer submitted there was a prima facie case against each of the defendants and as defence counsellors Aaron Thompson and Michael Chambers had no contrary submissions, District Judge Eamon King said he was satisfied there was a case to answer.
The court clerk told O’Loughlin and Trainor, who appeared by video link from his solicitor’s office, that although not obliged to they had the right to comment on the charges and to call evidence to the PE on their own behalves but they declined the opportunity.
Remanding O’Loughlin back into custody and freeing Trainor on continuing bail, DJ King returned the case to Newry Crown Court for trial and extending legal aid to allow senior QCs to be instructed, he scheduled the arraignment for February 22.