A COUNTY Tyrone man facing charges relating to the discovery of a suspected high-scale cocaine factory in Fintona, worth an estimated £500,000, has been refused bail.

Ashley McLean (35), of Deverney Park, Omagh was arrested in May following a police raid on a property in which a quantity of cocaine was allegedly recovered along with a firearm and ammunition.

He faces charges of being concerned in the production and supply of cocaine, possessing it with intent to supply, as well as handling a stolen vehicle and fraudulently using a registration mark.

In addition, there are charges of possessing a firearm and shotgun cartridge in suspicious circumstances, and permitting a premises at Rahony Road, Fintona, to be used for the production of cocaine.

A co-accused, Corey Leonard (25), from Arvalee Road, Omagh, who faces similar charges, was released on High Court bail last week.

However, a Detective Constable objected to McLean’s release, telling Omagh Magistrates Court: “The amount of suspected drugs identified clearly illustrates he is well-connected to an organised crime gang.

“The drugs were found at an address where he has apparently sole controllership, along with a stolen vehicle, and all the trappings of a cocaine factory.”

He further advised the state of the drugs “lends weight to the belief this cocaine factory had been running for some time prior to the defendant’s arrest”.

Forensic examination has confirmed 2.5 kilos of the cocaine was in excess of 70 per cent purity, along with 9 kilos of benzocaine, giving an estimated street value of £500,000.

“That said, the purity, when cut, would be significantly greater than what is usually sold as street cocaine, so the actual figure may be higher,” added the Detective Constable.

He contended McLean was either “responsible for the amount of loss, or it was a personal investment” and the only way he’d get it back is by further criminality.

Mobile phone data recovered from devices associated with both accused shows no direct contact between them, leading police to believe there is at least one other person who arranged for the drugs to be brought to the Fintona address.

“These are serious offences and the strength of evidence is fairly apparent. Police believe, if released, he may fail to appear in court.

“Detention is also necessary to prevent interference with the administration of justice and the investigation. He has no material ties, apart from immediate family, and has provided no account of employment.”

McLean has resided in Northern Ireland for just two years over the past decade, and his now ex-partner, who is pregnant with his child, no longer resides in the jurisdiction.

The court heard McLean’s ex-wife, and mother of his other children, resides in Scotland and: “There’s really nothing keeping him here, apart from this court case ... He has refused to engage with police. If released, he may assist in the disposal of evidence.”

The Detective Constable added that, without McLean’s co-operation, police could be: “Anything up to two years away from getting into that mobile phone.”

Throwing out the bail application, District Judge Bernie Kelly said: “I have grave concerns. There is evidence of a potential flight risk. I also consider the money behind this sort of enterprise.

“The defendant has not allowed police his phone PIN code. There is also possible interference with the investigation. Bail is refused.”

McLean will appear again by video-link next month.