Saturday 24 June 2017

Aer Lingus staff helped illegals bypass security, court is told

Two Aer Lingus employees have been charged in connection with the people-smuggling claims. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Two Aer Lingus employees have been charged in connection with the people-smuggling claims. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Andrew Phelan

An Aer Lingus worker facilitated non-nationals illegally entering the State by "bypassing" passport controls and security before exiting Dublin Airport, a court has heard.

Peter Kernan (56) had bail set at €22,000 after a court was also told he had an "alleged association with organised criminal gangs who have access to false documents".

Mr Kernan was one of two Aer Lingus employees charged by gardaí investigating alleged people-smuggling operating through the airport.

Both Mr Kernan, with an address at The Old Rectory, Celbridge, and Frederick Cham (61), of Railway Cottages, Hazelhatch, Celbridge, both in Co Kildare, appeared in Dublin District Court on Human Trafficking charges. They are each charged with two counts of facilitating the trafficking of a non-national into the State at the airport on January 9 and 22.

A third man, Xing Wang (28), from China but of no fixed address here, was charged with separate offences - failing to produce a passport or identification card and failing to present himself to an immigration officer on January 22. He is also charged with possession of a false Hong Kong passport.

Judge Cormac Dunne remanded Mr Kernan in custody, with consent to bail, to appear in Cloverhill District Court next Monday. The two co-accused were remanded in custody to Friday with no bail applications yet made on their behalf.

Read more: €18m people-smuggling ring involving Aer Lingus staff has 'Italian Mafia and Chinese Triad' links

Detective Garda Keith Cleary of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) said he arrested Mr Wang at 9.35am on Sunday, January 22, in Dublin Airport.

He was brought to Coolock garda station, where he was charged on Monday night. Gda Cleary said there would be bail objections.

Defence solicitor Michael Kelleher said there was no bail application being made, adding that there were "ID and status issues" to be resolved.

Detective Garda Lorcan Tighe, also from the GNIB, said Mr Cham was charged at 2.05am at Ballymun garda station and made no reply after caution.

Mr Kelleher said a bail application would be made on Friday. Judge Dunne deferred a decision on legal aid in his case, to give the gardaí an opportunity to "explore the circumstances of the accused".

Detective Garda Brendan Ó Somachain said while he was objecting to bail for Mr Kernan, some terms had been agreed with defence solicitor Amanda Connolly.

He cited the seriousness of the charges and the likely penalties on conviction, as well as "his alleged association with organised criminal gangs who have access to false documents".

An independent surety had been withdrawn due to the level of publicity surrounding the case, the court heard.

"The allegation is that Mr Kernan, along with others, organised to facilitate the illegal entry into the State of non-nationals, for them to bypass passport control and exit the airport without having any contact with security personnel at all," Det Gda Ó Somachain said.

"It is alleged there was a considerable sum of money paid for this to be done."

The court heard a sum of money had been seized from Mr Kernan. Ms Connolly said Mr Kernan had two sons with his ex-wife, who were in court. His current partner and her daughter were also present in court.

Judge Dunne granted bail, in the accused's own bond of €2,000, and an independent cash surety of €20,000. The judge said two separate sureties of €10,000 would also be accepted. He must surrender his passport and sign on three times a week at Leixlip garda station.

Mr Kernan, wearing a tan-coloured jacket, green shirt and black trousers did not address court.

Irish Independent

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