Cocaine seized at Belfast City Airport ‘could be worth £1.5m’

George Best Belfast City Airport
George Best Belfast City Airport

Cocaine found hidden in a suitcase at Belfast City Airport could be worth up to £1.5m, a court heard today.

Border Force officers discovered the haul after unscrewing a fake bottom on the luggage of a passenger who had travelled from Brazil.

Valdire Medeiros Da Silva, 47, appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court charged with importing and possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply.

The father-of-four, a Brazilian national with an address at Deramore Drive in Portadown, Co Armagh, was refused bail.

He was stopped and arrested after arriving on a flight via Heathrow on Sunday.

A detective from the National Crime Agency (NCA), which is now handling the investigation, said 4kg of cocaine was located in a “professionally-constructed hide within the suitcase”.

Although the drugs have an estimated street value of £200,000, he suggested they could be worth up to £1.5m depending on purity.

During interviews Da Silva made no admissions and denied knowledge of the cocaine.

Opposing bail, the detective claimed the accused could flee if released.

The court heard Da Silva has travelled round the world over the last two years, including trips to Brazil, France, Spain, Poland and Luxembourg.

According to the NCA searches of his house uncovered evidence of four separate moneygram transfers for £2,700.

In cross-examination, defence solicitor Conor Downey stressed nothing was found when Border Force officers first examined his client’s suitcase in London.

Referring to the subsequent search in Belfast, he argued: “It’s completely impossible for this man to have been in contact with any of the drugs that were found in his suitcase if the same procedures were followed.

“If the same procedures have not been followed questions would arise regarding he competency of the search carried out at Heathrow.”

Mr Downey disclosed that Da Silva has lived with his Latvian wife and their family in the Craigavon area for the past ten years.

Denying bail, however, District Judge Oonagh Mullan said: “The risk of flight I consider is very high.”

She remanded the accused in custody to appear again by video-link on January 23.