A MAJOR consignment of drugs, worth more than €1m was recovered at a cottage in County Limerick having been transported across Europe a court has heard.
Details of the “elaborate and sophisticated” operation to import the drugs were revealed by gardai during the sentencing hearing of two Limerick men who pleaded guilty to charges relating to the seizure of the drugs last year.
Kieran Nevin, aged 37, of Oliver Plunkett Street, St Mary’s Park and Shane Ferguson, 46, of Meadowbrook, Mill Road, Corbally each pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis herb for the purpose of sale or supply on May 25, 2012.
Detective Garda Paul Crowley told Limerick Circuit Court that Ferguson - an unemployed carpenter - hired a van in Limerick, insured it and drove to Newry where he met another man on the outskirts of a residential area.
The man brought him to a house in Points Pass where five large boxes were to be picked up.
He said the consignment of cannabis, which originated in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, contained more than 50kg of cannabis herb.
Det Garda Crowley said the boxes had been flown by UPS to Cologne in Germany and from there onto Castle Donington in the UK before being delivered to the house in Newry, where Ferguson collected them.
The court was told that Ferguson’s movements were tracked throughout the day as a major surveillance operation was mounted by gardai assisted by members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
After loading the navy rental van with the drugs, Ferguson removed the Hire-A-Van stickers off the vehicle and threw them in the bin.
He also discarded the external shipping boxes at the house. These were later recovered by members of the PSNI.
After driving from Newry to Limerick, Ferguson met with Kieran Nevin at Ahane School before returning to Limerick city - stopping briefly at Finnegan’s Bar.
Meanwhile, Nevin drove the van to the cottage at Annagh, Lisnagry, which he had rented a number of months previously
The court heard Nevin, who had adopted the alias “Tony Brown” had a €3,400 gambling debt and had agreed to transport the drugs on the understanding he would be left with “a few hundred in the end”.
The drugs were then transferred from the van to the cottage and Nevin left but gardai swooped and apprehended him a short distance away. Ferguson was arrested in Limerick city around the same time.
John O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, said the boxes containing the drugs were dropped off at the UPS depot in Eindhoven at 9.23am on May 24, 2012.
He said the boxes passed through Cologne after midnight on the 25th, and arrived at Castle Donington Airport in the UK sometime after 4am on the same date.
The court heard the airplane carrying the drugs later touched down at Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland from where they were delivered to the pick up address in Newry after 10am.
The case, he said, involved agencies from the UK, Northern Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands while Interpol shared intelligence on the drugs origin and shipments.
The consignment, he added, was very “sophisticated and it involved the distribution and supply of cannabis in Limerick”.
Det Garda Crowley said that the interception was a major one that “disrupted that very supply”.
Following his arrest, Nevin told gardai that he had accrued the gambling debt which was to be written off.
He was told to collect a phone from the back of the Handball Alley in St Mary’s Park on the night in question and wait for a call.
He did this and left his address at Oliver Plunkett Street when informed the drop was ready.
He also admitted that two months earlier he had carried out a similar job.
While Ferguson told gardai he was transporting the drugs for a friend who owened money, Det Garda Crowley said gardai did not accept his explantion.
Judge Carroll Moran was told it is accepted by gardai they were not the owners of the drugs and that the operation to import the drugs had been organised by criminal elements.
Judge Carroll Moran, adjourned sentencing until January 17, next.