Friday 20 April 2018

€440m cocaine smuggler arrested after jail escape

Held: Gerard Hagan
Held: Gerard Hagan

Gerard Couzens and Ralph Riegel

A DRUGS smuggler jailed for his part in a €440m Irish cocaine haul has been arrested in Spain after escaping from a UK prison.

Gerard Hagan (29) from Liverpool was arrested by armed police outside a gym near the Costa del Sol resort of Estepona where he had gone to work out.

Hagan was previously jailed for 10 years after admitting his involvement in a botched bid to smuggle cocaine worth €440m ashore at Dunlough Bay in west Cork in July 2007.

It remains Ireland's largest offshore cocaine seizure, with the drugs ultimately destined for the UK market.

But after being transferred from Ireland to the UK, Hagan escaped Kirkham Prison in Preston on July 6, 2012. He had been on the run ever since.

The street in Spain where Hagan was arrested is close to the spot where Dublin gangster Paddy Doyle was murdered in a drive-by shooting in February 2008.

Following his arrest, Spanish and UK officials confirmed that Hagan will not be returned to Ireland, where he spent three years in custody.

Hagan was paid €6,200 to take part in the Dunlough Bay operation, organised by former Metropolitan Police drugs squad detective Michael Daly.

He was told to go to Trinidad and Tobago and board a catamaran called the 'Lucky Day', which was loaded with more than 1.5 tonnes of cocaine bound for the west Cork bay.

The plot was scuppered when the gang overloaded a smaller boat used to ferry the drugs ashore and accidentally filled a spare fuel tank with diesel instead of petrol.

The vessel began to sink in stormy seas and Hagan ran to a farmhouse to raise the alarm.

Martin Wanden was later found floating in the sea surrounded by bales of cocaine and was airlifted to hospital with hypothermia.

Gardai seized four vehicles on the Mizen peninsula – three 4x4s and a saloon car – as part of their follow-up operation.

A British judge later heard that the entire operation was like a plot from James Bond's 'Casino Royale'.

A total of 62 bales of Columbian cocaine were left floating in the bay with a purity level of more than 75pc and a street value of €440m.

Two other gang members were arrested after they had fled into the mountains.

When arrested some 36 hours later, both had to be treated for hypothermia.

Martin Wanden (40), of no fixed abode, and Perry Wharrie (52) Pyrles Lane, Essex, UK were handed 30-year prison sentences after being convicted by a Cork Circuit Criminal Court jury in November 2008.

EARLY

Wharrie had been freed from prison in 2005 after serving 17 years of a life sentence for murdering PC Frank Mason in 1988.

Joe Daly (47), of Bexley, Kent, UK, was handed a 25-year prison sentence after also being convicted of the Dunlough Bay haul.

Hagan pleaded guilty at an early stage to his role in the operation and received a 10-year prison sentence.

Two other men have since been jailed in the UK.

Michael Daly (51) of no fixed abode and formerly of Bexley, Kent, UK – a retired police detective and the older brother of Joe Daly – was handed a 22-year prison term in 2010.

Alan Wells (58), a retired fireman from Sidcup, London, UK was jailed for 14 years.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News