Monday 22 July 2019

Airport 'wasn't used for drug smuggling'

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

MILLIONAIRE businessman Jim Mansfield has dismissed claims that his executive airport at Weston has been used as a drug smuggling point into the country.

He rejected a series of what he called scandalous and scurrilous allegations that lax security at his airfield in west Dublin meant drug traffickers were targeting it for major shipments.

He was commenting last night after his Cessna Citation executive jet, which had been impounded by the Belgian authorities last month, was released and flown back to Weston.

The jet was seized after the arrest of an Englishman, who had intended to board the craft at Kortrijk-Wevelgem international airport in southern Belgium with a suitcase containing 48.5kg of heroin.

The heroin, which had a street value here of ?9.7m, was due for distribution on the streets of west Dublin and, in particular, Clondalkin, Ballyfermot and Blanchardstown.

The courier, from the Leeds-Bradford area, was stopped by police before he tried to check in and the drugs were found.

But the two Irish pilots, from Leixlip, Co Kildare, and Donabate, Co Dublin, were arrested as part of the investigation and the jet was impounded.

The pilots were released on bail on October 10 and the authorities also handed back the plane, although it was not flown back to Weston until earlier this week.

Mr Mansfield, who had defended the innocence of the pilots since their arrest, told the Irish Independent last night he was satisfied that all criminal charges against them would be dropped, but they were likely to be called back to Belgium to give evidence in the trial of the Englishman.

He said the jet was normally for private use by him and his business partners, but on this occasion the plane had been borrowed to replace another craft, which had been grounded with a broken engine.

Mr Mansfield defended the range of measures in operation at Weston and said these had been boosted in recent months by the introduction of x-ray equipment, which could detect a drugs haul as it passed through.

"What we have installed in Weston is at least as good as the best available in executive airports in Europe," he said said, "and many of the staff have been employed there since well before I took over."

He urged the politicians, who were attacking the measures, to call out to Weston and inspect the equipment.

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