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Wednesday 25 April 2018

Four men charged over €80m cocaine seizure

Left to right: Benjamin Mellor, John Powell, and Thomas Britteon.
Left to right: Benjamin Mellor, John Powell, and Thomas Britteon.
Three men have been charged in relation to the €80m cocaine seizure
Benjamin Mellor. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
John Powell, skipper of the yacht. Photo Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Thomas Britteon. Photo Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Ralph Riegel and Tom Brady

Three men have been charged with drugs trafficking following an €80m cocaine seizure by the Naval Service off the Irish coast.

The three – John Powell (70), Benjamin Mellor (35) and Thomas Britteon (28) – appeared before a special sitting of Cork District Court.

A 47-year old man has been charged with conspiracy to import cocaine into the United Kingdom.

He has been remanded in custody and will be brought before Leeds Magistrates Court tomorrow morning.

They appeared three days after the 28-year old yacht, ‘Makayabella’, was stopped and boarded by the Naval Service 250km off the Mizen Head.

The yacht was detained by the LE Niamh supported by the LE Roisin.

A total of 41 bales of cocaine, believed to be worth €80m, were seized as part of a joint Garda, Customs & Excise and Naval Service operation.

The yacht was boarded following co-operation between Ireland and seven other jurisdictions via the Lisbon-based Maritime Analysis Operations Centre-Narcotics (MAOCN).

The ‘Makayabella’, which was charted from a Grenadine Islands-based boat hire firm, remains under detention at the basin in Haulbowline Naval Base.

The 60ft yacht is now undergoing detailed forensic analysis.

The three men appeared before the court at Angelsea Street amid tight security at 8pm.

Evidence of arrest, caution and charge was given to Judge Olann Kelleher by Det Garda Fergus Twomey, Det Garda William Holmes and Det Garda Liam Brennan.

The court was told that all three defendants face a single charge on the instructions of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

They are charged with the possession of a controlled drug, namely cocaine, on board the yacht, 'Makayabella' on September 23 knowing or suspecting that it was for importation contrary to Section 5 (1-A) of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Powell of 10 Airedale Mews, Silsden, West Yorkshire, UK replied when charged: "That is all clear."

Britteon of 120 Convamore Road, Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, UK told Gardai after being charged that: "I am sorry for what I done."

Mellor of Manningham, Moringtom Villas, Bradford, Yorkshire, UK made no reply to Gardai when charged.

Judge Kelleher remanded all three in continuing custody to appear again before Cork District Court next Thursday (October 2).

Judge Kelleher agreed to an application from the State that the appearance should be via video-link.

Free legal aid was granted to all three men on the application of their solicitors, Frank Buttimer (Powell and Mellor) and Shane Collins Daly (Britteon).

Statements of means were submitted to the court on behalf of all three defendants.

The court was told that there were no objections to the remands in custody or the three men making their next appearance before Cork District Court by video link.

All three men remained silent during the brief 10 minute hearing.

The trio appeared in casual clothing including track suits, slacks and jumpers.

All three are UK nationals.

The 'Makayabella' is now expected to remain at Haulbowline Naval Base for some time under tight security.

The 41 bales of cocaine were transferred to Dublin under armed garda escort last Thursday pending further analysis.

Gardai warned that it will be some time before the purity or original of the cocaine can be determined.

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