A Nigerian father of four has been jailed for ten years for his role in a €29 million cocaine operation.
Abraham Shodiya (44) of Carnlough Road, Cabra, was unanimously convicted of the offence after an 11 day trial last month.
He had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four charges of possessing cocaine for sale or supply and two charges of possessing cocaine at Enterprises Services Unit 1, Old Quarry Campus, North West Business Park, Ballycoolin and Maldron Hotel, Kiltipper on June 26, 2012.
He has two previous convictions for dangerous driving and failing to remain at accident scene from Drogheda District Court in 2010.
Detective Garda Eoin Roche of the Garda National Drugs Unit (GNDU) said that Shodiya was arrested with almost 43kg of cocaine in wheelie bins on a trailer attached to a vehicle at the Maldron Hotel in Dublin. Another 378kg of the drug was seized at the Ballycoolin warehouse.
Det Gda Roche told Kerida Naidoo BL, prosecuting, that Shodiya was the “right hand man” of entrepreneur Gareth Hopkins (34) who received a 15 year sentence with two suspended earlier this year after pleading guilty to the crime.
Judge Desmond Hogan acknowledged Shodiya’s entitlement to stand trial and said he didn’t feel he had been the “main man” in the operation.
Det Gda Roche said GNDU members had monitored a shipping consignment of wooden flooring imported to Ireland in June 2012. Shodiya had dropped a bill of lading for the container into a Dublin shipping company on behalf of Gareth Hopkins, using the pseudonym “Gary Kelly”.
A lorry driver delivered the container to a yard in Westmanstown after contacting Shodiya on a phone Hopkins gave him for the operation.
GNDU members observed Shodiya lead the lorry to the yard, which had been sublet for use to Hopkins, in a silver Land Cruiser vehicle.
Shodiya and another man, who is an innocent party, worked through the night to separate drug packed timber from normal flooring using Hopkins’s description of how to do so.
The separated planks were stacked on a pallet and moved to the Ballycoolin Industrial Estate. A number of days later Shodiya was captured on CCTV footage breaking open 25 boards, removing the cocaine packages inside and placing them into a wheelie bin on the back of his vehicle. Another 25 boards were also put in a bin.
Det Gda Roche said the GNDU team arrested Shodiya later that morning as he drove to Tallaght. He added that the drugs were 79 per cent in purity, which was “extremely high”.
He told Mr Naidoo that Shodiya gave gardai a false account of what happened in his first interview, but made admissions in the subsequent six.
The detective garda said Shodiya admitted all factual elements of the case, but maintained he hadn’t realised the consignment contained drugs till he got to the yard and that he had just been following Hopkins’s instructions all along.
Shodiya told gardai he hadn’t been promised any payment for his role in the operation.
Det Gda Roche agreed with Blaise O’Carroll SC, defending, that his client lived a few doors down from Hopkins’s family home and started working in the entrepreneur’s SOS Recycling business in 2007.
He agreed Hopkins had accepted full responsibility for importing the cocaine, that he had owned the vehicle driven by Shodiya and that some of the cocaine was found in a raid of his home.
He further agreed that gardai found nothing on his client’s normal phone or in his house.
Mr O’Carroll submitted to Judge Hogan that his client had been a hardworking member of the community and was a devoted family man.
He asked the judge to bear in mind the contrast between his client working as a manual labourer and Hopkins with his Trinity College qualifications.
Judge Hogan said he accepted the “small distinction” between Hopkins and Shodiya, but said the father-of-four was “no mere callow youth” and knew what he was getting into.
He imposed a 12 year sentence with two suspended and backdated to when Shodiya entered custody in June last year.