Two men appear in court charged over €157m cocaine haul off Irish coast

English national and Ukrainian national were charged with conspiracy to import drugs and remanded in custody

Two men arrested have been charged before Waterford District Court over the €157m cocaine shipment seized off the Irish coast on Sunday night.

The two accused, Jamie Harbron (30) of 26 South Avenue, Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees, United Kingdom, and Ukrainian Vitaliy Lapa (60), of no fixed address, were both charged with conspiracy to import drugs under Section 71 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006.

The two men were conveyed from Wexford Garda station to Waterford courthouse on Friday evening, arriving under heavy garda escort.

The pair, who are the first of seven people arrested to be charged, appeared before Judge John Cheatle.


The men were seated in different pews with fully armed special branch in close proximity.

Det Gda James Doolan of the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau told the court that Mr Lapa had been arrested at Wexford Garda station the previous night, October 28th, and charged with conspiracy to import drugs.

Det Gda Doolan said that when the charge was put to him he made no reply.

Sgt Victor Isdell made an application for Mr Lapa to the remanded in custody to appear before Wexford District Court via video-link on Monday, October 2nd, with the consent of the accused.

Mr Lapa’s solicitor, Maria Murphy, requested that a psychiatric assessment of her client be carried out and that he receive any medical attention required. There was no State objection to this application. Ms Murphy also applied for free legal aid.

Det Gda Ciara McNulty, also of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, told the court that Mr Harbron had also been arrested the previous night and charged with conspiracy to import drugs.

She said the accused when the charge was put made no response.

Solicitor for Mr Harbron, Ms Lana Doherty, said there was no objection to a remand in custody and made an application for free legal aid.

Mr Harbron was remanded in custody to appear via video-link at Wexford District Court on Monday, October 2nd.

Neither applied for bail, which is a matter for the High Court.

Following the short hearing, both accused were escorted from the court and taken to Cork Prison.

Both men came to the attention of gardaí as a result of their fishing trawler going aground off Blackwater in County Wexford.

They were on the vessel, Castlemore, which they had purchased in Castletownbere some days earlier, being reportedly making their way to Dover in England when the fishing vessel ran aground off Blackwater.

An operation with the fishing vessel was followed by a flurry of military activity throughout Monday and Tuesday, culminating in the elite Army Ranger Wing storming a bulk cargo vessel, the MV Matthew, off the Cork coastline.

Later it was confirmed that €157 million worth of cocaine had been uncovered on board the cargo vessel, in what is being described as the biggest drug seizure in the history of the state.