Monday 23 September 2019

Satellites, code words and drugs in a plot fit for a thriller

IT SOUNDED just like the pages of a thriller.

Multiple passports, aliases, code-words, powerful jeeps, satellite communications and tracking equipment.

And if listeners weren't already fascinated enough, throw in a waterproof box, miraculously recovered from the sea by gardai, together with 62 bales of cocaine weighing 1,500 kg and worth a cool €440m.

Not to mention a late-night rendezvous 30 miles out to sea, off one of Europe's wildest coasts, by an isolated weather buoy simply named 'N3' and which can apparently only be tracked via an obscure internet site.

Tom Creed, for the State told Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday that it was one of the biggest cocaine seizures in the State's history and apparently came about because someone poured diesel rather than petrol into the powerful outboard motors of the boat transferring the drugs to shore. Without power, the boat apparently foundered in force 5 winds and sank, throwing €440m of cocaine into the sea.

Such is the length of the State's case against three Britons -- Perry Wharrie (47), Martin Wanden (44) and Joe Daly (40) -- that the jury of nine men and three women could be hearing evidence for up to 10 weeks. All three deny drug possession charges.

A total of 577 potential witnesses are listed and the jury will also be asked to consider mobile phone records, CCTV security camera footage and airport travel records from as far afield as South Africa, the UK, Barbados, Lithuania and Spain.

Catamaran

Key to the proceedings will be the movements of a catamaran 'Lucky Day'. It is the State's case that this was the vessel which brought the drugs across the Atlantic to Ireland.

But, as the State outlined its case yesterday, it also became clear that the minutiae of life will dominate proceedings ranging from mobile phone records, invoices, car insurance transfers, vehicle purchases, airport and port travel records, not to mention tracing prescriptions for dental antibiotics.

Mr Creed claimed that gardai have even traced one of the men to playing a game of golf in Bandon -- and to a visit to Blarney Castle. "There may even be a picture of him kissing the Blarney stone," Mr Creed said.

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