Gardaí investigating group suspected of smuggling cocaine into Cork search properties in Dublin

A 48-hour extension to the detention of 10 suspects sought at Bandon District Court on Monday evening

Gardaí investigating the activities of an organised crime group suspected of trying to smuggle cocaine into west Cork have carried out searches on two residential premises in Dublin and have asked the PSNI to search a commercial premises in Northern Ireland.

Chief Supt Vincent O’Sullivan disclosed the move at a special sitting of Bandon District Court on Monday evening when he applied for a 48-hour extension to the detention of 10 suspects being held under section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act.

Insp John O’Connell opened the Garda application by asking Judge James McNulty to make an order prohibiting publication of details of the application as gardaí felt publication could compromise a number of planned operations in relation to an ongoing investigation.

But the judge said he would be slow to prohibit the media from publishing details of the hearing. He decided to read parts of the application relating to forthcoming operational matters himself rather than have Chief Supt O’Sullivan read them aloud in court. Chief Supt O’Sullivan then confirmed their accuracy to the judge.


Chief Supt O’Sullivan told the court gardaí needed the extra time to question the 10 suspects on foot of these latest searches which resulted in gardaí obtaining an extra 31 electronic devices, including phones and SIM cards, from which information has to be extracted to put to the suspects.

He said the mobile phones could be divided into two categories – those that could be attributed to the suspects and those not attributed to any person. While some of the suspects had given gardaí pin numbers, others had refused to hand over pin numbers, he said.

This meant gardaí are having difficulty accessing and extracting information from both the mobile phones which can be linked to individuals among the 10 suspects, as well as phones not attributed to anyone. As a consequence, gardaí needed additional time, he said.

Gardaí have also seized a number of Iridium Satellite phones and have had to contact experts in the United States to obtain assistance in extracting information from them which has delayed their ability to put the information to the suspects at interview, he said.

Chief Supt O’Sullivan also said gardaí obtained a total of 450 hours of CCTV footage which must be examined to establish people’s movements and involvement and this too has to be put to the suspects who are being held at five separate Garda stations.

He said gardaí have identified a number of vehicles of interest in addition to a Zephyr camper van, a Land Rover Discovery jeep and an articulated lorry seized in west Cork, and this has necessitated inquiries being made in a number of other jurisdictions.

These include contact and inquiries being made with the PSNI as well as police forces in Scotland, France, Bulgaria and the Netherlands, meaning gardaí require additional time to put the information obtained from these inquiries to the suspects, he said.

Earlier, defence solicitor Plunkett Taaffe, who is representing a 48-year-old Iranian born Dutch citizen, took issue with what he described as “saturation media coverage” of the case to date as he expressed concern some of the coverage may be prejudicial to his client.

“This case has attracted saturation media coverage with reference to billions of euros of drugs and links to Hizbullah in respect of these people who are not charged with any offence – none of which was stated at the hearing here on Friday night but which could contaminate a jury pool,” he said.

Chief Supt O’Sullivan confirmed he made no reference to any amount of drugs or any links to any Middle Eastern terror group at the earlier hearing but the judge said that as an avid news reader, he had read the coverage and did not believe it was “saturation coverage”.

He also said he did not believe the coverage was prejudicial and pointed out that the case was “a long way from a jury at this stage” but if the case went to trial and concerns still existed then, he had no doubt the trial judge would issue an appropriate warning to any juror.

The judge granted the extensions in the cases of all suspects to allow gardaí to continue questioning them until Thursday morning at Bantry and Bandon Garda Stations in west Cork, Togher and the Bridewell Garda stations in Cork City and Mallow Garda station in North Cork.

The 10 suspects were arrested last Thursday: four at Tragumna near Skibbereen and the other six in Leap village when gardaí stopped a UK-registered camper van. Gardaí believe they were in the area to collect drugs which were to be dropped off the west Cork coast.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times