Judge rejects bail application by man accused over Ballyseedy Garden Centre crystal meth haul

Court told €100,000 surety offered on behalf of former company director Nathan McDonnell not sufficient

A Co Kerry businessman charged over Ireland’s largest-ever crystal meth seizure has been denied bail in the High Court despite his father offering a €100,000 surety.

Nathan McDonnell (44), a former company director who previously ran Ballyseedy Garden Centre, has been charged with possession of drugs worth more than €13,000 for sale or supply at the garden centre between October 27th and February 12th last. Mr McDonnell replied “not guilty” when charged.

James Leen (41), of Pilgrim Hill, Kilmourna, Listowel, faces two charges of importing methylamphetamine, known as crystal meth, at Cork Port, Ringaskiddy on October 16th last. He is also accused of possession of €13,000 or more of the drug at Ballyseedy Garden Centre between October 27th and February 12th last. He made no reply when charged with the offences.

The District Court had heard Customs officers discovered 543kg of crystal meth, with an estimated value of €32.8 million, when they inspected a container in the Port of Cork. The court has heard this had been shipped from Mexico and stored in Ballyseedy Garden ­Centre since October..


The men were refused bail at their first District Court hearings in February but were entitled to bring fresh applications to the High Court. Mr McDonnell’s bail application was heard last week by Ms Justice Karen O’Connor, who said the allegations in this case “are in respect of very serious offending”.

She noted defence submissions and that Mr McDonnell’s father, Michael McDonnell, told the court he would stand bail for his son and offered €100,000 from his life savings as a surety.

Det Sgt Ernie Henderson of Tralee station confirmed to Theresa Lowe BL, for the State, that he was objecting to bail due to the seriousness of the case and flight risk concerns.

However, Ms Justice O’Connor adjourned the case to consider the matter and on Tuesday said she would not be granting Mr McDonnell’s bail application. She said the accused had the presumption of innocence but that the surety amount offered was not sufficient and no conditions would allay the Garda concerns.

Mr McDonnell watched the proceedings via video link from prison.

The proceedings have heard that the men may face additional charges and the Director of Public Prosecutions’ directions were required. The men are due to appear in the District Court again on Wednesday.

Mr Leen’s High Court bail application is scheduled to proceed on Thursday.