Boat with ‘stealth capabilities’ left Tragumna pier to meet ‘mothership’ and collect drugs, court told

Gardaí believe 10 men detained in Cork last month involved in ‘sophisticated’ operation run by international crime group

STOCK: The Courts of Criminal Justice on Parkgate St. Dublin
Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
The Criminal Courts of Justice Exterior view

A powerful 40-ft inflatable boat was extensively modified with “stealth capabilities” to ferry a crew from west Cork to meet a “mothership” at sea and return laden with drugs, the High Court has heard.

Gardaí arrested 10 men on March 14th last in Tragumna, Co Cork and charged them with conspiring to import drugs into Ireland. They were remanded in custody after District Court appearances last month.

Due to the nature of the alleged offence, which could result in life sentences, the men had to bring bail applications to the High Court. They were listed before Ms Justice Karen O’Connor on Friday but seven of the applications were adjourned until next Friday.

Applications regarding Seán Curran (37), from Carrickyheenan, Aughnacloy, Co Fermanagh, and former Gibraltar Police employee Pedro Padio Ojeda Ortega (34) and construction worker Angel Serran Padilla (39), both from Malaga, Spain, proceeded and were refused.


Ms Justice O’Connor said she was not satisfied she could grant them bail after hearing evidence and lengthy submissions from defence and prosecution lawyers. She noted that gardaí believe the incident was part of a “sophisticated” operation by an international crime group.

Garda Armed Support Units were posted to the courthouse for the duration of the proceedings.

Mr Curran said he would reside in the State at a family member’s property, adding: “I have no reason to run.” He said he had driven a lorry and was only doing his job. “I had no involvement with any of these boys in this group.”

Mr Ortega and Mr Padilla proposed to reside at the address of a family friend in Co Cork.

Keith Branagan BL, for the State, said there were concerns the accused would not turn up for trial and could interfere with evidence or witnesses if released.

Garda Insp John O’Connell told the court “a concerned citizen” alerted gardaí about vehicles at Tragumna Pier in the early hours of March 12th. There was a Land Rover, a camper van, an articulated truck and several people present.

Gardaí conducted surveillance and were informed of the launch of the 40-ft rigid inflatable boat (RIB) equipped with three high-powered engines. Almost 48 hours later, the three vehicles returned to the pier and the RIB returned without any drugs.

The inspector claimed the 10 defendants loaded the RIB using a winch on to a modified trailer and into the truck. The truck got stuck due to the slant on the pier and was towed by the Land Rover and camper van.

It was alleged that the camper van departed with six men, including Mr Padilla and Mr Ortega inside, but gardaí intercepted it in Leap. The other four, including Mr Curran, were arrested at Tragumna pier.

The court heard gardaí recovered walkie-talkies, personal phones and satellite “burner” phones and maritime clothing. The entire cost of materials, including the boat, travel, and accommodation, was estimated to be €700,000.

The court heard the RIB originated in Portugal and was brought via the Netherlands to Rosslare and from there to a yard in Omagh, Co Tyrone, where Mr Curran worked. Insp O’Connell said it had been “extensively modified” in Omagh and had “stealth capabilities”.

Insp O’Connell alleged the RIB went to collect drugs from a “mothership”. He said the satellite phone was for contacting the mothership and the RIB’s movements coincided with contact from that phone.

The RIB allegedly entered English waters but, due to a storm, missed the mothership and returned to Tragumna after about 48 hours. It was alleged that Mr Padilla and Mr Ortega were on the powerboat, but not Mr Curran.

The other seven accused include Iranian-born Dutch citizens Ali Mazidi (46) and Kiumaars Ghabiri (55), both with addresses in Rotterdam, and Serbian Alexander Milic (36), with an address in Belgrade.

Spaniards Antonio Gallardo Barrofo (55), also known as Juan Antonio Gallardo, and Raul Tabares (48), both with addresses in Cadiz, and Mario Angel Del Rio Sanz (43) and Anuar Rahui (41), with addresses in Malaga, were also charged with conspiring to import controlled drugs worth in excess of €13,000.