Wednesday 13 December 2017

'New era' in illegal drugs as Bitcoin trader and film technician admit online deals

Richard O'Connor. Photo: Courtpix
Richard O'Connor. Photo: Courtpix
Neil Mannion. Photo: Courtpix

Aoife Nic Ardghail

A Bitcoin trader and a film technician were involved in an online global operation described as "a new era in drug dealing", a court heard.

Neil Mannion (34) and Richard O'Connor (34) were charged with possessing drugs worth €143,000 following a garda raid in south Dublin in October 2014.

Detective Sergeant Brian Roberts compared the operation of selling drugs on the "dark net" - a layer of the internet that can only be accessed with specific software - to trading on eBay or Amazon, saying: "it's a new phenomenon that's growing and ultimately the modern era of drug dealing."

Mannion, of Mount Drummond Avenue, Harold's Cross, Dublin and O'Connor, of Clonskeagh Road, Clonskeagh, Dublin both pleaded guilty to possession of LSD, amphetamine and cannabis resin with intent to sell or supply at Bank House Business Centre, South Circular Road on November 5, 2014. Neither man has any previous convictions.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that former Eircom worker Mannion had set up the online drug dealing business - and that O'Connor was paid up to €600 a week to post the packages to customers in countries like Japan, Argentina and the USA.

Judge Martin Nolan said he would think about the case over the weekend and deal with it at 2pm on Monday. He remanded both men in custody until then.

Det Sgt Roberts said that he and colleagues placed Mannion under surveillance after receiving confidential information about a computer IP address.

They followed his car to the business address and later obtained a search warrant.

Gardai found Mannion and O'Connor on the premises, along with a holdall containing the drugs, a vacuum packing machine, weighing scales, envelopes and labels for posting.

Over his 11 garda interviews, Mannion explained that the operation was "just a market place like any other market place, like eBay".

The court heard O'Connor had had a drug dependency at the time but was now clean and had a "bright future" in the film industry.

The detective sergeant agreed with Michael O'Higgins SC, defending Mannion, that it was not difficult to access the dark net and anyone who was a "little tech-savvy" would be able to do so.

Irish Independent

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