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£130m drugs haul suspect returns to face new charges

A MAN at the centre of Garda inquiries into the £130m cannabis seizure at Urlingford, Co Kilkenny, two years ago was escorted by detectives on a flight from Britain last night to face new drug charges.

Suspect John Noonan (42), from Finglas, Dublin, will appear at Dublin district court today and is expected to be charged with possession of drugs with intent to supply.

He was arrested by members of the garda national drugs unit at Greenhills Road, Walkinstown, in May last year after the seizure of 2,000 Ecstasy tablets, estimated to be worth £20,000 on the streets.

Noonan was charged and remanded in custody but granted bail later by the High Court. However, the charges were struck out by the judge last October when the book of evidence in the case was not ready.

Gardai later obtained warrants for his re-arrest but Noonan had moved address and shortly before Christmas it was established he was in England.

Last month undercover detectives in a joint operation with West Midlands police on January 20 arrested Noonan in a house in Birmingham.

Noonan had been staying in a house owned by former Dublin drugs baron Larry Dunne who is currently on trial in Birmingham on robbery and firearms charges. He had his suitcases packed and was believed to have been about to fly to Amsterdam when arrested.

A court in Birmingham subsequently ordered his extradition to Dublin to face the new Ecstasy charges, and after he waived his right to appeal last week three members of the garda national drugs unit travelled to Birmingham to escort him back.

He arrived back at Dublin airport last night where he was formally arrested and taken into custody.

While he was in prison awaiting his transfer to Dublin a man purporting to be a member of the Gardai contacted the authorities and said he was escorting Noonan home but the call turned out to be bogus.

Noonan was arrested by gardai in Finglas in November 1995 at the same time as they revealed the seizure of the Urlingford shipment.

Gardai confiscated £13,000 in cash from Noonan which was later forfeited to the State.

Meanwhile, a big cannabis smuggling route into the capital has been smashed with the arrest last Thursday night of two Dublin men in Belgium, after the seizure of 25 kilos of cannabis, worth £250,000 street value, in a joint operation by Gardai and police in Belgium and the Netherlands.

In a follow-up operation gardai detained two men from Rathfarnham in Booterstown at the weekend.

A DPP file is being prepared.

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