Man caught helping to transport €6m worth of cannabis in van full of shoeboxes jailed

Ryon Fitzpatrick (34) arrested in Spain and extradited to Republic after gardaí placed shipment under surveillance

A total of 304kg of cannabis were found in shoeboxes in the back of the van, with an estimated street value of €6,080,000.

A man who was caught helping to transport €6 million worth of cannabis hidden in a fake shoebox consignment has been jailed for 6½ years.

Ryon Fitzpatrick (34) was arrested along with two other men as they prepared to enter a derelict field in north county Dublin in October 2020.

The drugs were contained in a van full of shoeboxes, while Fitzpatrick was driving an accompanying lookout car which was driving in convoy with the van, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard on Tuesday.

Fitzpatrick was arrested and questioned but not charged, and he moved to Spain a few months later, Det Garda Val Russell told Garret McCormack, prosecuting. He was arrested in Spain last year after his car was pulled over and he was extradited to Ireland last December. He has been in custody since then.


Fitzpatrick, with an address at Cookstown Road, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty to one count of possessing cannabis for sale or supply at Stockhole Lane, Cloghran, Swords, Co Dublin on October 23rd, 2020.

He has 13 previous convictions, mostly for road traffic offences.

The drugs had come into the country in a shipment from Bilbao, Spain, and were intercepted by customs officials, the court heard. Gardaí arranged for a controlled delivery of these drugs to a legitimate logistics centre in Dublin, which was put under surveillance.

The court heard that Fitzpatrick’s co-accused — Anthony Kinghorn and Mark Nesbitt — travelled to Ireland from the UK and were seen by gardaí leaving the logistics centre in a van on the day in question. They were accompanied by Fitzpatrick, who was driving a car.

Gardaí stopped the men just as they were about to enter a derelict field in Swords. A total of 304kg of cannabis was found in shoeboxes in the back of the van, with an estimated street value of €6,080,000.

Fitzpatrick was also found to have a small amount of cocaine in his car, as well as three phones — one of which was encrypted with an app that criminal gangs use to communicate, the court heard.

He was carrying a fake document stating he worked for a pet shop and was an essential worker, which allowed him to travel during Covid lockdowns.

Gardaí believe he was at around the mid-level of a criminal gang.

Kinghorn (now 51) of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England, pleaded guilty and was jailed for eight years in 2021. Nesbitt (now 53) of Whitefield House, Cecil Crescent, Hatfield, Hertfordshire in the UK was found guilty by a jury following a trial in 2022 and was also jailed for eight years.

John Fitzgerald, defending, said Fitzpatrick fled to Spain because he was under threat. He said he built a new life for himself over there, was working and was in a relationship.

He said Fitzpatrick grew up in a household with material advantages, but that his home life was characterised by alcohol and violence. He started taking drugs as a teenager and engaged in self-destructive behaviour.

He amassed a drug debt in the lead-up to this offence, which resulted in his involvement in the crime, counsel said. He is now drug-free and attempting to better his life while in custody, the court heard.

Sentencing Fitzpatrick, Judge Pauline Codd said it was a serious crime involving a serious amount of drugs. She noted the “attendant harm that causes”.

She set a headline sentence of 11½ years but reduced it to nine after mitigation. She suspended the final 2½ years of this sentence on several conditions.