Two men have been sentenced at Belfast Crown Court for fraud-related offences in connection with a puppy smuggling investigation last year in Belfast.

Mark Hirst, aged 46, was convicted of fraud by false representation and 48-year-old Oliver McVeigh was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

Commenting, Detective Inspector Sweeney said: “On Tuesday, 2nd August 2022 detectives from the Police Service’s Organised Crime Branch stopped Mark Hirst in his van in Belfast.

“The vehicle was searched and police observed 60 animals, mainly puppies, on board. False travel documents were also discovered.

“Further enquiries made by detectives connected Oliver McVeigh to the investigation who provided animals to Hirst in order to transport them across the water with the intention of selling them.”

Hirst was subsequently handed down a four-month custodial sentence on Thursday morning, 5th December in court. He has also forfeited £3,493.40 and 1,482 euro under civil POCA legislation.

Meanwhile, McVeigh was handed down a three-month custodial sentence that was suspended for one year.

Detective Inspector Sweeney continued: “We note the custodial sentence handed down today and organised crime gangs will seek to exploit any mechanism for making money that they can.

“We have worked hard on this investigation, alongside our partners in DAERA to rescue a large number of puppies and deny the ability to exploit this harmful trade for criminal gain.

“We will continue to work with our partner agencies to prevent this type of wide spread smuggling and trafficking by organised crime gangs be it drugs, animals, vulnerable persons, firearms or anything else.”

If you have any information about suspected animal smuggling or criminal activity, you can contact police on 101, or submit a report online using the non-emergency reporting form via

You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at