Man released without charge in Cork cocaine ship investigation

Five individuals now remain detained by investigating gardaí at Garda stations in the south

Gardaí investigating the detention of the Panamanian-registered bulk cargo vessel MV Matthew released a man without charge on Saturday. Five individuals now remain detained by investigating gardaí at Garda stations in the south.

A man (30) was arrested on Saturday at about 9.30am for alleged organised crime offences contrary to the Criminal Justice Act, 2006, gardaí said in a statement. He is the eighth person to be arrested to date as part of the investigation.

Five individuals are currently being detained under section 50 Criminal Justice Act 2007.

On Friday night two men were charged before Waterford District Court over the €157 million cocaine shipment seized off the Irish coast on Sunday night. The two accused, Jamie Harbron (30), of South Avenue, Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees, UK, 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 appeared before Judge John Cheatle.

Det Garda 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, September 28th, and charged with conspiracy to import drugs. The garda said when the charge was put to Mr Lapa 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 Garda 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 made no response when the charge was put.

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.

Both men came to the attention of gardaí as a result of their fishing trawler going aground off Blackwater, Co 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 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.

Gardaí said investigations were continuing.