By Harry Keaney
The trial of four Irish nationals indicted in an alleged Florida gun-smuggling ring may not take place for months, a lawyer for one of the defendants told the Echo Monday.
A federal hearing was to have taken place in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday in relation to setting a trial date, but details from the hearing were not available before the Echo went to press.
The four charged are Martin Mullan, Siobhan Browne, Anthony Smith and Conor Claxton.
Mullan, Smyth and Claxton are reportedly from Belfast, and Browne from Cork.
Prosecutors said the group tried to send handgun, shotguns and ammunition through the U.S. to Ireland and Northern Ireland.
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All have pleaded not guilty.
Federal agents arrested Browne, Claxton and Smyth in Fort Lauderdale last July. Mullan was arrested in Philadelphia.
About the same time, gárdaí swooped on a house in Galway and arrested one man and two women.
Six handguns and ammunition were recovered from the house.
The arrests came after British authorities at Birmingham airport discovered firearms in a package mailed from South Florida in early July when British authorities intercepted a package at West Midlands Airport and discovered a .357 Magnum revolver inside.
Agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco tracked the weapon to a gun show dealer in Fort Lauderdale.
The dealer later identified Browne and Smyth from photographs.
A total of eight packages containing weapons and ammunition were mailed from the U.S. to Ireland under labels stating they contained toys, stereo equipment, baby clothes and cassette players, according to federal officials.
Daniel McElhatton, the Philadelphia-based lawyer for Mullan, said Tuesday that no trial date had been set. A tentative trial date of Sept. 13 had been set earlier, but McElhatton said the actual trial might be months away.