Tuesday 25 September 2018

Three men refused bail following the discovery of €57m illegal cigarette factory

Stock picture
Stock picture

Tom Tuite

Three Bulgarian men charged following the discovery of an illegal cigarette factory worth €57m in Jenkinstown, Co Louth have been refused bail.

Petar Petrov (46), Yordan Shopski (51) and Boti Panicharsti (63) made an application for bail when they appeared at Cloverhill District Court on Thursday.

They were among a group of 11 foreign nationals charged contrary to the Finance Act 2005 and who had been remanded in custody following a court hearing on March 16 last.

Objecting to bail Garda Noel Monaghan told Judge Victor Blake today that he feared the three men would flee the jurisdiction and not turn up for trial if granted bail.

He also cited the seriousness of the case as a reason for opposing bail.

He said gardai obtained a warrant and on March 15 an illegal cigarette factory was allegedly found in “a clandestine location in a shed rural behind a number hay bales.”

He said 24m cigarettes were found as well as enough loose tobacco to produce 66m cigarettes. The seizure was valued at €57m with an estimated €45m loss to the exchequer, he said.

Garda Monaghan said the offence can result in a maximum fine of just under €127,000 as well as a possible sentence of up to five years.

He alleged they had no ties to the country and had been living in temporary accommodation in a shed at the site which has now been dismantled. They had come to the country recently, he said.

Defence counsel Aoife O’Halloran submitted that they could surrender passports, abide by bail terms and provide addresses in the State.

The court heard that Mr Petrov and Mr Shopski had worked in cigarette factories in Bulgaria and had been made redundant.

Their families had come over to stand bail and find them somewhere to live in Ireland pending trial, the bail hearing was told.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has directed that they are to face trial on indictment in the circuit court.

Garda Monaghan accepted that it was not alleged they had a senior role but were general operatives, however, nothing suggested by the defence would allay his fears they would flee if granted bail.

Pleading for bail, counsel said they may not face trial for over a year given the high number of defendants in the case.

Judge Victor Blake held the three men were flight risks and after refusing bail he remanded them in custody pending the preparation of books of evidence.

Eight other co-defendants were further remanded in custody to appear again in two weeks and some of them indicated they may make bail applications then, Judge Victor Blake was told.

They were: Vytautas Pelenis (33), Mindaugas Pelenis (35), Evaldas Simonelis (48), Giederius Palciauskas (28), Rumuras Butkevicius (41), Javaras Kairys (34), Tomas Jarutis (27) and Vytautas Sakinis (27) are from Lithuania. They are also waiting to be served with books of evidence.

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