Our exclusive photographs show Shebani out on the streets of Newry as he awaits trial on firearms and drugs charges related to the Encrochat hack by Europe’s police forces.
The 38-year-old, who is originally from north Dublin but is currently living in the North, has links to a drug gang controlled by a crime boss known as Mr Big.
Members of the mob are the chief suspects in numerous gangland killings and are heavily involved in drugs trafficking.
But despite his feared reputation, Shebani claims he is now spending his days helping punters get the perfect tan - in a salon he co-owns on Margaret Street in Newry.
The slaon claims to have the “best mega beds” in the town - but also does spray tans.
Shebani was granted bail on August 10 at Newry Crown Court as he awaits trial accused of conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life and conspiracy to import and supply drugs.
He was one of more than 800 suspects arrested across Europe after police hacked into the encrypted Encrochat communications network which criminals across the continent used to plot criminal activities in the belief that security services could not monitor them.
It was alleged in court that Shebani is “heavily involved” in the large scale distribution of cocaine and cannabis.
The Sunday World tracked him down to Newry this week where he walked around the town like a man without a care in the world, despite the charges he is facing.
This week Shebani made an unsuccessful application to have his bail terms relaxed.
Under the conditions he cannot have access to even a basic mobile phone and must be home by 7pm each night.
On Wednesday at Newry Crown Court, defence counsel applied to allow him to have a mobile phone and to extend his curfew.
The court heard that having been freed by the High Court on August 10, lawyers for Shebani had lodged their variation application within 24 hours.
Aaron Thompson, acting on behalf of the alleged drug smuggler, said he was asking for Shebani to be allowed a mobile phone “of basic character, not to have access to the internet” and to extend his curfew by three hours to 10pm.
He told the court that Shebani and his partner Chelsea Bollard run a “fairly new” tanning salon on Margaret Street in Newry and they have a young baby together.
Mr Thompson said the variations would enable Shebani to work evenings at the tanning salon, thereby allowing his partner to put the baby to bed, and that if he was allowed a mobile phone, he could keep in contact with Ms Bollard when one or other is working. He said it would allow him to consult with his defence team more easily.
Shebani is one of 24 men who have been arrested in Northern Ireland as a result of the National Crime Agency-led Operation Venetic, as police forces across Europe use information gleaned from previously encrypted mobile phones 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.
In addition, Shebani is also charged with conspiring with others 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 March 25 and June 15 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.”
Turning to how police believe they can connect Shebani to the hacked data, the lawyer detailed how:
The court heard how all of that ties in with Shebani in that he has a brother called Niall and when cops raided his house on June 15, Shebani’s partner Chelsea Bollard was there with the couple’s newborn son who has the same name as the baby referred to in the intercepted messages.
Police investigations are ongoing in that officers are seeking to obtain a copy of the baby’s birthday certificate, said Mr Steer, adding that in relation to bail objections, police had concerns that he would reoffend or would abscond.
He said Shebani was jailed for six months in 2010 for concealing criminal property in that he had failed to declare E62,000 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.”
District Judge Eamon King refused to vary either restriction and the case was adjourned to September 16.
Associates of Shebani are prime suspects for the murders of Mark Noonan and Glen Murphy. The innocent cousins were shot dead at the Tesco Clearwater in Finglas in 2010, in a case of mistaken identity.
He was also previously charged with the attempted murder of his former associate Simon O’Connor (36). The charges in relation to the Newry assault were later dropped.