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Mr Clean's gang are next, vow gardai as €29m drug-smuggler graduate is jailed for 13 years

DETECTIVES are determined to snare former close associates of the Trinity College graduate known as 'Mr Clean'.

Gareth Hopkins (33) was jailed for a total of 13 years after he admitted to the importation of €29m worth of cocaine.

The Herald can reveal that Hopkins is closely linked to a veteran Ballyfermot criminal who has barely any convictions.

A senior source said: "This older individual was regularly seen at Hopkins' side in the months leading up to the operation by the Garda National Drugs Unit.

"It seems that there has been very little communication between them since Hopkins was locked up but the older fella is still being monitored."

Hopkins' involvement in the major drugs operation last June came as a huge surprise to gardai. He was an entrepreneur with a good education and no criminal record. His older sister was the high-profile cancer campaigner Cathy Durkin who died last year.

It is understood that the Ballyfermot criminal played a role in introducing Hopkins to notorious Netherlands-based trafficker George 'The Penguin' Mitchell, who gardai suspect was involved in the importation – the largest cocaine seizure ever recorded in Ireland.

The shadowy Ballyfermot criminal – who has a large property portfolio and passes himself off as a businessman – has never had a major criminal conviction despite being on the garda radar for over three years.

"Himself and Hopkins made quite the team for a while, but it is all over now for Hopkins," said a source.

 

PRESSURE

The convicted drugs trafficker who comes from Cabra, north Dublin, has been in Cloverhill Prison since he was busted – only leaving the jail for court appearances and to attend the funeral of his beloved older sister last summer.

Dublin Circuit Court heard that Hopkins had been made redundant earlier in 2012 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 College.

Detective Eoin Roche explained that Hopkins, using a false name, had organised the importation of planks into Dublin Port via an unsuspecting shipping company.

Gardai had information that a consignment containing cocaine would be brought in and mounted a surveillance operation.

The consignment arrived on June 18, 2012, and was moved by a transport company, who again were unaware of the true nature of the load, to Clonee where they were met by a jeep registered to Hopkins and directed to sheds at the rear of buildings in Westmanstown.

The drugs, which were concealed within some of the wooden planks, were separated and moved to a premises at Ballycoolin in west Dublin. Some of the drugs were later transported to Tallaght where they were seized by gardai, who also seized the drugs at Ballycoolin.

Gardai found four slabs of cocaine in a suitcase in a shed at the rear of Hopkin's home in Kildare. Hopkins' partner was unaware of his activities.

A notebook containing details on how to separate the drug slabs from the wooden planks as well as the amount of drugs and the container number was also found by gardai.

Hopkins initially made admissions to gardai about the cocaine found in the shed at his home but denied knowledge of the seizures at Tallaght and Ballycoolin.

He denied involvement in the logistics of the importation and said he had been at Westmanstown and Ballycoolin on legitimate business.

 

DURESS

In later interviews, he told gardai he had been "under duress" but later said he had been under financial pressure and general stress rather than physical duress from a third party.

He made admissions about his own role in relation to the larger amounts of drugs and about the movement of money.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring said Hopkins was highly involved in the importation of the cocaine which would have destroyed lives if it had reached the streets. She said he is the type of person who doesn't come before the courts very often and different from the usual drugs courier.

kfoy@herald.ie


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