Wednesday 21 August 2019

Man with chronic gambling addition charged over €439k drug seizure fled country for nine years

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Stock picture

Ralph Riegel

A MAN with a chronic gambling addiction who left Ireland after being charged in relation to a €439,000 drug seizure voluntarily returned nine years later after a second member of his family became terminally ill.

Aidan Crowne (39) was jailed for five years after pleading guilty to the drug charge which relates to events in 2008 but which have only come before the Circuit Criminal Court because the defendant had been out of the jurisdiction until now.

Judge Sean O'Donnabhain was told that Crowne was charged before Fermoy District Court nine years ago in relation to the discovery by Gardaí of 58kg of cannabis and cannabis resin at a property in Castletownroche in north Cork.

The drugs, with a total street value of €439,000, were seized by gardaí following an intelligence led operation on November 19 and 19 2008.

Crowne had been seen attending the property in a remote rural area of north Cork.

Gardaí raided the property and found the cannabis.

However, Crowne subsequently left Ireland after the district court charge and did not answer his bail terms.

That resulted in €25,000 in bail funds being forfeited by his family.

The court was told that Crowne spent time in the UK and farther afield.

However, he was deeply ashamed of being unable to travel back to Ireland for his mother's funeral a few years later.

His brother then became seriously ill and he decided to contact gardaí so he could return home to Cork.

The defendant's brother died and it was agreed with gardaí that he would return to Ireland, attend the funeral and then be taken into custody.

That occurred on July 28 last.

Defence counsel, Jim O'Mahony SC, said Crowne came from a very respectable and hard-working family.

However, he lost his job in a Cork shopping centre and then developed a chronic gambling addiction.

At one point, he owed hundreds of thousands of Euro.

His involvement in the cannabis scheme was a desperate way of repaying his gambling debts.

The court was told Crowne did not have a drug addiction.

He had hoped the cannabis scheme would ultimately earn him up to €1,000 per week.

Crowne, formerly of Norwood Court, Rochestown, Cork, apologised to the court for his actions and to his family for any distress his actions had caused them.

Judge O'Donnabhain noted that Crowne had contacted gardaí and voluntarily returned to Ireland despite knowing he faced a potentially lengthy jail term.

He also accepted the young man had a serious addiction problem.

"Gambling is a particularly cancerous kind of addiction," the judge said.

"It permeates every aspect of a person's life."

Mr O'Mahony told the court that his client's gambling debts in 2008 were "huge."

Judge O'Donnabhain noted Crowne's apology, his remorse and the fact he had described the drugs scheme as "a terrible error of judgement."

Crowne had described the incident as "a life-changing mistake."

He imposed a seven year prison sentence but agreed to suspend the final two years of the term.

The sentence was also backdated to July when Crowne was first taken into custody.

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