A Polish pilot and a Co Waterford man have been remanded in custody over a seizure of €8.4m of cocaine allegedly flown into the midlands on Thursday.
A court heard today that the haul was a “massive loss” to an organised crime group.
Officers from the Garda National Drugs & Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB), supported by other units, monitored a Cessna single-engine aircraft landing at Abbeyshrule Aerodrome, Co. Longford, shortly after 6pm on Thursday.
Later that evening, they intercepted two vehicles in the Lough Owel area in Co. Westmeath, recovering 120 kilogrammes of cocaine from one car.
Gardaí arrested Tim Gilchrist, 54, of Mavis Bank, Newrath, Waterford and pilot and Michal Luczak, 41, with an address at Primrose Avenue, Jigginstown Naas, Co. Kildare.
They were detained at Ashbourne Garda Station, Dublin, where they were charged on Saturday evening. Both men appeared before Judge Patricia Cronin at a special sitting of Mullingar District Court this morning.
Mr Gilchrist is accused of possessing cocaine for sale or supply at Lough Owel, Irishtown, Co. Westmeath, while father of two, Mr Luczak, is charged with the same offences at the Abbeyshrule Aerodrome.
The seizure was described in court as a "massive loss" to a criminal group.
Detective Garda Liam Mangan told Judge Cronin that Mr Gilchrist “made no reply to charge."
Solicitor Maurice Regan told the court his client was not making a bail application at this stage.
Judge Cronin noted gardaí needed to be notified 48 hours before any potential bail hearing. But, the solicitor added, "I don't think there will be any application."
The judge recommended that Mr Gilchrist, who has "a number of health conditions,” would get medical attention in custody.
Mr Luczak applied for bail, but Detective Ivor Scully objected because the pilot was a flight risk.
Mr Luczak made no reply to his charges.
Defence solicitor Paddy McGarry said his client had protested his innocence since gardaí arrested him.
During the contested bail hearing, Detective Garda Scully told Judge Cronin that GNDOCB officers were investigating the activities of an organised crime group involved in the importation of controlled drugs.
He alleged that former law student Michal Luczak was involved with a criminal group and a part owner of the Cessna aircraft.
Detective Garda Scully alleged the accused flew the plane to France on Wednesday and returned the following day "without informing the relevant authorities". He said officers monitored the flight arriving
He alleged that Michal Luczak unloaded "heavy duty" black bags and placed them in the co-defendant's car.
The court heard they drove in separate vehicles, and the co-accused was stopped and searched at Lough Owel. The court heard gardaí recovered three bags from the boot and another three from the rear seat, each containing 20 blocks of cocaine, from the co-defendant's car.
Detective Garda Scully told the court estimated value was €8.4m. He also said that the pilot paid €25,000 for his one-sixth share of the plane and had a watch worth €5,000.
He informed Judge Cronin that Mr Luczak was a holder of a single-engine aeroplane licence, had no definitive ties to the jurisdiction and had the resources to flee.
He also described the seizure as a “massive loss to this organised group”.
The judge heard that further charges could be brought.
Cross-examined, Detective Garda Scully agreed with Mr McGarry that no drugs were recovered from Mr Luczak's car, and there was no DNA evidence.
However, he said gardaí have phone evidence.
He agreed that it could be several months before the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) gives directions and that his client could have to wait three years before trial.
During exchanges with the defence, he also accepted a search of the man's home did not show signs of "significant wealth".
Mr McGarry said his client enjoyed the presumption of innocence and had "protested" his innocence and maintained he did not have knowledge of the offence, during five interviews with gardaí.
The solicitor said his client was on social welfare doing odd jobs due to the pandemic and had bought his share of the plane with help from a family member.
His client was previously a law student but moved to Ireland from Poland 17 years ago to find work.
Gardaí have seized his passport.
Mr McGarry also disputed the evidence of his client's lack of ties to Ireland; he said Mr Luczak was married with two children, and his wife attended the hearing.
He added that his client's friends in the Polish community could act as a surety when they learn about the case.
Judge Cronin refused bail because there was evidence to support the Garda contention that there would be an attempt to evade justice.
Judge Cronin remanded them in custody to appear again at Mullingar District Court via video link on Thursday, pending direction from the DPP.
Legal aid was granted.