North Belfast UDA leader Andre Shoukri has been in court accused of blackmail, intimidation and money laundering.
Supporters of Shoukri were outside the court
Facing the same charges was John Boreland, 36, who was also charged with possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear.
Shoukri, 28, replied not guilty when the charges were put to him. Mr Boreland made no reply. Both were remanded in custody.
There was a large security presence at Belfast Magistrates Court.
A number of supporters of the two men were in the public gallery for the hearing, including Andre Shoukri's brother, Ihab.
They clapped and cheered when the hearing was over.
The two accused were arrested earlier this week following a series of police searches in the Westland estate in the north of the city and Castlereagh.
Both will appear in court again next month.