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Judge denies alleged Dublin gangster Aymen Shebani permission for hotel break

Defence counsel Aaron Thompson tried to argue that Shebani had been on bail and compliant with conditions for an extended period of time but the judge told the lawyer his application “is refused.”

Aymen Shebani

Paul Higgins

An alleged Dublin gangster accused of being “heavily involved” in the large scale distribution of cocaine and cannabis has been refused permission to have a four-day family break.

Although Newry Magistrates Court heard that both the police and PPS were content for Aymen Shebani’s bail conditions to be suspended for the four day break to the Roe Valley in Limavady later this month, District Judge Eamon King said the 38-year-old was subject to those conditions “for a purpose - the application is refused.”

Defence counsel Aaron Thompson tried to argue that Shebani had been on bail and compliant with conditions for an extended period of time but the judge told the lawyer his application “is refused.”

The 38-year-old, originally from Dublin but now with an address at Carney Hall in Newry, is one of more than 30 men who have been arrested as a result of the NCA led Operation Venetic as police forces across Europe use information gleaned from previously encrypted mobile phone to investigate and prosecute those allegedly involved in organised crime and drug importation.

Shebani is facing five drugs charges accusing him of conspiring to import cannabis, conspiring to possessing the class B drug and cocaine with intent to supply and being concerned in supplying cocaine and cannabis.

Aymen Shebani

In addition Shebani is also charged with conspiring with other to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life and with entering an arrangement to acquire criminal property, all alleged to have been committed between 25 March and 15 June this year.

When he first appeared, prosecuting lawyer Robin Steer told the court that “essentially, this began when the police were able to access encrypted phone data, incoming and outgoing text messages as well as images being sent.”

Outlining how encrypted phones do not use the same communication networks as normal phones with data allowances costing the user around £1,500 every six months, Mr Steer said that similarly to other cases which have recently been before the courts, “police don’t have the handset but they believe that the messages can be attributed to this defendant circumstantially by reason of their content.”

He said the police had been able to access a “very large number of messages referring to cocaine and cannabis, importing drugs from Spain, the movement of very large amounts of cash and quantities of drugs.”

“Also messages which referred to a firearm using the slang words of ‘using a drill’,” said Mr Steer claiming that Shebani’s encrypted username was “waterquail.”

The court has heard that Shebani was jailed for six months in 2010 for concealing criminal property in that he had failed to declare €62,000 and $3,000 that had been found in his then home near Derry.

The money was found in an apartment at Dunhugh Manor in Newbuildings during a search in November 2009 with Shebani claiming he had earned the money from buying and selling cars.

Mr Steer said Shebani had been on bail for those charges but had absconded for over two months, highlighting that “he is from Dublin” with connections to the south so there was a risk of flight.

He said while there is “nothing terribly significant” on Shebani’s criminal record in the South, the lawyer claimed that “he is known to have criminal connections to organised crime groups in Dublin.”

Today’s refusal is the second time that Shebani has been refused permission for a hotel break.

Just before Christmas last year, he asked to be allowed spend two nights at the Fitzwilliam Hotel with his partner for his “amusement and distraction” from Boxing Day to 28 December.

Refusing the application at that stage however, DJ Paul Copeland said “this is neither a family event nor any urgent matter requiring his attendance.”

“It’s just an application for his amusement and distraction,” said the judge adding that “striking a balance” as to why he is under a strict bail regime, the variation application “is inappropriate and disproportionate.”

In court yesterday, DJ King adjourned the case to 18 August.

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