Sunday 26 January 2020

Trinity graduate smuggled €29m worth of cocaine

Fiona Ferguson

An entrepreneur and Trinity College graduate organised the importation of €29m worth of cocaine into Ireland, a court has heard.

Gareth Hopkins (33) had been made redundant earlier in the year and told gardai he was under financial pressure. He is also a director of a number of legitimate companies.

The court heard on a previous occasion that Hopkins was director of a recycling company and a mining company in Sierra Leone. He has a degree in Computer Science from Trinity.

Hopkins pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of cocaine for sale or supply at Ballycoolin, west Dublin, and at his then home at Beech Park, Leixlip, Co Kildare, last June 26. He has been in custody since his arrest.

The court heard Hopkins had accepted responsibility for the entirety of the 423kg of cocaine valued at €29,627,934 that was imported through Dublin Port and concealed inside a number of wooden flooring planks which were part of a larger consignment.

The drugs were separated from the consignment and later seized at several locations in Dublin and Kildare. The purity of the cocaine was 65pc to 70pc.

Garda Eoin Roche told Kerida Naidoo BL, prosecuting, that Hopkins, using a false name, had organised the importation of the planks into Dublin via an unsuspecting shipping firm.

Gardai had information that a consignment containing cocaine would be brought in.

The consignment arrived last June 18 and was moved by a transport company, which was also unaware of the true nature of the load, to Clonee where it was met by a jeep registered to Hopkins and directed to sheds at the rear of buildings in Westmanstown.

The drugs were then moved to a premises at Ballycoolin in west Dublin, with some later transported to a location in Tallaght where they were seized by gardai, who also seized the drugs at Ballycoolin.

SUITCASE

Gardai went to Hopkins's home in Kildare and found four slabs of cocaine in a shed. Hopkins's partner was unaware of his activities.

Hopkins made admissions about his role in relation to the larger amounts of drugs and about the movement of money in and out of his bank account.

Gda Roche agreed with Patrick Marrinan SC, defending, that Hopkins was someone who had not previously been on the garda radar.

Hopkins took up employment in 2003 with a property management company where he was employed until March last year when he was made redundant. He had an income of €75,000 at that time and his tax affairs were in order.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring adjourned sentencing until June 10 to allow her to consider testimonials.

She noted that the case was "one of the more serious offences of this nature to come before the court" and said she must have regard to any similar cases.

Irish Independent

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