Men accused in Ireland's biggest ever drugs haul sent for Special Criminal Court trial

men accused in ireland's biggest ever drugs haul sent for special criminal court trial

Men accused in Ireland's biggest ever drugs haul sent for Special Criminal Court trial

FIVE MEN WHO are facing charges relating to Ireland’s biggest ever drugs haul have been sent for trial at the Special Criminal Court.

The five men, Iranian Saeid Hassani (38), Dutch national Cumali Ozgen (49), Filipino Harold Estoesta (30), Ukrainian Mykhalo Gavryk (31),  and Ukrainian Vitaliy Vlasoi (31) appeared at Mallow District Court. The book of evidence was served on each of the accused who were all assisted by interpreters.

Inspector Tony O’Sullivan said that signed certificates had been received from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to allow the five to be tried in a Special Criminal Court.

Legal representatives for all of the accused reserved their positions on the certificates that were submitted to the court.

The five men face three charges in relation to the seizure of 2.25 tonnes of cocaine valued at more than €157 million that was discovered on board the MV Matthew cargo ship off the Cork coast in September 2023.

They are charged with the possession of cocaine for sale or supply with a value in excess of €13,000 in Irish waters and for possession of cocaine for sale or supply with a value in excess of €13,000 outside of Irish territorial waters as well as conspiracy to have in their possession, on September 24, cocaine for sale or supply in excess of €13,000 in contravention of Sections 5 and 15a of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977.

They all also face an additional charge of participating in or contributing to activities facilitating a serious offence by a criminal organisation on September 4, 2023 contrary to Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

Insp. O’Sullivan said that the State was making an application in each case to have the accused sent forward “For a sitting of a Special Criminal Court.”

Judge Colm Roberts granted the applications in the case of all five accused. He also granted legal aid for the provision of one senior counsel, one junior counsel and one document counsel for each of the accused.

Legal aid was also granted for the translation of the book of evidence, the provision of translators and the provision of a marine engineer for the inspection of the vessel the MV Matthew. Judge Roberts issued an alibi warning to each of the accused that if they wished to rely on alibi evidence as part of their defence they had 14 days to make it known.

Harold Estoesta asked the judge if 14 days was long enough for him to be able to clarify alibi evidence as there was more than 1,000 pages in the book of evidence. Judge Roberts said that this was a matter he would need to address with his solicitor.

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