THERE have been 26 seizures of drugs in the Magherafelt area so far this year, the local PSNI Area Commander has revealed.

Chief Inspector Sam Donaldson said that this compared to 18 for the same period in 2011 and attributed to a ‘hard crackdown’ by police.

Mr Donaldson made the announcement while revealing the recent drugs haul made in the Leckagh estate, Magherafelt on Tuesday night of last week

A total of 38kgs of herbal cannabis were discovered with a street value of £380,000. A large sum of cash was also found by police during a subsequent vehicle search.

Mr Donaldson confirmed police were now linking this haul to searches still being conducted in the Belfast and Omagh areas.

“People who operate across council boundaries have a bit of cunning about them and it is clear we have have tapped into something,” he told reporters.

“The increase in seizures does not mean that there are more drugs out there — there is not — but people are coming forward with the right information.

“If people have the confidence to come forward with specific information then we can act.”

He said that the rise in the numbers of local people passing on information followed the roll out of Operation Silent Guardian, which has started up in the Maghera area.

The campaign urges residents to contact police with specific information such as addresses and registration of cars being used by people they suspect of drug dealing.

Meanwhile, a Chinese national was remanded in custody at Londonderry Magistrates Court on nine charges arising out of the discovery.

Zheng Chang (34), with an address at Donegall Road, Belfast, will appear by video link at Magherafelt Magistrates Court on October 10.

And a second man, also aged 34, was expected to appear in court today on charges relating to the haul. He was arrested in Fermanagh on Tuesday.

Magherafelt Sinn Fein councillor Deborah Ní Shiadhail welcomed the seizure of cannabis in the town.

“This massive seizure is to be very much welcomed. It is deeply shocking when one considers the significance of the amount of cannabis seized in this instance. It is such a relief to see it taken out of our community and off our streets,” she said.

DUP Mid-Ulster MLA Ian McCrea also welcomed the drugs seizure.

“Sadly, the illegal drugs trade seems to be on the increase in Magherafelt and therefore it is all the more important that the police are given the information about the movements of drug dealers to help remove the scourge of drugs and those dealing drugs from off our streets,” he said

And Mid-Ulster Ulster Unionist MLA Sandra Overend commended the PSNI on seizing the drugs.Mrs Overend said:”Drugs are blight on our society and drug dealers prey on our young people without care for the misery that they bring. It is absolutely vital that the entire community unites to give the Police every assistance to thwart the activities of the dealers.”

PSNI Area Commander Chief Inspector Sam PICTURED: Donaldson with the drugs and cash seized in Leckagh estate, Magherafelt. INMM38 505con