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Drug importer's employee 'was only a puppet'

A FORMER property development manager who was jailed for importing €29m of cocaine has told a jury the ex-employee accused of being his right hand man was a "pawn".

Gareth Hopkins (34) revealed he had organised the timber shipment containing cocaine through his 'BG Logistics' company in Bolivia and that Abraham Shodiya was "simply acting as a pawn, a puppet or a gillie".

"He assisted me under my instruction without any prior knowledge to what was going on," he told Blaise O'Carroll SC for the defence.



Shodiya (44) of Carnlough Road, Cabra, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four charges of possessing cocaine for sale or supply and two charges of possessing cocaine at Enterprises Services Unit 1, Old Quarry Campus, North West Business Park, Ballycoolin and Maldron Hotel, Kiltipper on June 26, 2012. It was day nine of the trial.

Hopkins said he grew to trust Shodiya as a "conscientious and hard working" employee who "followed instructions very well".

Hopkins filled in his own PPS number and the pseudonym 'Gary Kelly' on the bill of lading, a document used in goods transportation, when dealing with a shipping company ahead of the container's arrival to Dublin.

He had Shodiya deliver this document to the shipping company because he was in Sierra Leone on business with his diamond mining company.

He told Mr O'Carroll that he paid all importation fees and organised the container's transport to the facility where the cocaine packed timber was separated from the normal boards.

Hopkins said he gave Shodiya a "burner phone", a ready-to-go mobile phone purchased for easy disposal, a number of days prior to the container's arrival and preprogrammed all relevant numbers on speed dial.

Hopkins said he split one of the timber boards open to confirm there were drugs in the consignment and then put the cocaine found inside this plank into his jeep.

He said he didn't want the "bars around the two chaps that were working".

The other man helping Shodiya separate the timber received €1,000, which had been increased from a smaller cash amount because his family background "struck a chord" with Hopkins' own situation.

He instructed Shodiya to transport some of the cocaine when a purchaser contacted him a few days after the drugs planks had been moved to the Ballycoolin warehouse.

"I wasn't available. I would have done the drop myself but I had to drop my daughter to her dance class," he said.

Kerida Naidoo, prosecuting, put it to him that Shodiya informed gardai he saw him remove white packages from the first plank he'd split open. He suggested the accused knew they were drugs packages.

Hopkins replied that he wasn't aware Shodiya had known they were drugs.

"He was under my instructions at all times," he said.



Mr Naidoo suggested that though Hopkins was using this "mantra" there was "only one reason why you would place that level of trust on Shodiya and that is because you knew he wasn't going to turn you in, because he knew all along."

"He (the accused) moves without question from his recycling job to moving cocaine and you weren't worried he would say 'actually I have children, this is a serious crime and I'm going to the gardai'?" asked counsel.

Hopkins accepted that involving Shodiya had been an "enormous risk" but stressed that the accused hadn't known what he was doing or the value.

The trial has reached closing speeches before Judge Desmond Hogan and a jury of nine men and three women.