A 50-year-old-man has been remanded in custody after he was charged in connection with the seizure of 2.2 tonnes of cocaine worth over €150 million aboard a ship off the south coast last week.
Soheil Jelveh, an Iranian national, was brought amid tight security before Wexford District Court where he was charged with a total of three offences in relation to the seizure the cocaine aboard the bulk carrier, MV Matthew off the Irish coast last week.
Mr Jelveh was charged that at a location within the state, he had in his possession cocaine, contrary to Section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, and that he had in his possession cocaine for sale or supply, contrary to Section 15 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 on September 24th, 2023.
Mr Jelveh was also charged with a third offence at a location within the state, he did import cocaine with a street value in excess of €13,000 in contravention of Section 15B of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, also on September 24th 2023.
Det Garda Liam Mangan of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) gave evidence of arresting and charging Mr Jelveh at Wexford Garda Station and he told the court that Mr Jelveh made no reply to any of the three charges after caution.
He said that gardaí were objecting to bail on the grounds of the seriousness of the charges and the strength of the evidence against Mr Jelveh while they were also objecting to bail on the grounds that he posed a serious flight risk and would interfere with witnesses if granted bail.
Det Garda Mangan said that Mr Jelveh was the captain of a bulk carrier, the MV Matthew on which gardaí, in a Joint Task Force operation with the Naval Service and Revenue and Customs officers, seized 2,253kgs of cocaine with a street value of over €157 million.
He said that as captain of the MV Matthew, Mr Jelveh was responsible for the cargo and crew of the ship as well as it its route which had involved it leaving South America on August 19th and sailing to Europe where he alleged, it was due to rendezvous with a trawler, the Castlemore, off the Wexford coast.
Det Garda Mangan said that gardaí had seized mobile phones, satellite phones and documentation as part of the investigation which they believed would tie the MV Matthew to the Castlemore for a planned importation of cocaine into Ireland.
He said that Mr Jelveh was airlifted off the MV Matthew on September 25th by the Irish Coast Guard after reporting an injury and he was taken to University Hospital Waterford where he received medical treatment before being discharged whereupon he was arrested by gardaí.
He said that Mr Jelveh was found to be in possession of $53,298 (€50,346) which he claimed were his wages but gardaí believed that he had left the ship in a bid to evade arrest and they believed that he posed a serious flight risk and would not stand trial if granted bail.
No ties to jurisdiction
He said that Mr Jelveh had no ties to the jurisdiction as his family lived in Dubai and with his qualifications as a ship’s captain could flee the jurisdiction. Gardaí also believed that he would interfere with witnesses including other members of the crew of the MV Matthew if granted bail.
Defence solicitor, Lana Doherty, said her client was willing to surrender his passport as well as his Captain’s Certificate which was effectively his licence to work as a captain and she was seeking bail on the basis his family would come up with a substantial lodgement if given time to raise the money.
However, Judge John Cheatle said the charges were serious matters involving significant quantities of drugs and he was satisfied that Mr Jelveh did indeed pose a flight risk given that he had no ties to the jurisdiction and in those circumstances, it was impossible to grant him bail.
Sgt Victor Isdell applied for a remand in custody for a week and Judge Cheatle remanded Mr Jelveh to appear by video link at Wexford District Court again on October 9th while he also granted him free legal aid on foot of an application for same by Ms Doherty.
Two other men arrested and charged as part of the same GNDOCB investigation, James Harbron (30) of South Avenue, Billingham, Stockton on Tees, UK and Ukrainian, Vitaliy Lapa (60), of no fixed abode, were both remanded in continuing custody to appear again on October 16th.
Both men had been charged with conspiracy to import drugs under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 on September 24th when they appeared at a special sitting of Waterford District Court on Friday and they had been remanded back to appear at Wexford District Court by video link.
Sgt Isdell said that gardaí were seeking a two week remand for the DPP’s directions and Mr Harbron’s solicitor, Lana Doherty, said her client was consenting to that remand. Mr Lupa’s solicitor, Marie Murphy, said that her client was also consenting to the remand.
Judge Cheatle remanded both men in continuing custody at Cork Prison to appear again at Wexford District Court on October 16th by video link for the DPP’s directions. Both men have already been granted free legal aid.