Three remanded in custody over €2m cannabis seizure in Dublin

An additional €1 million of various drugs were discovered during a search at a rented apartment in Blanchardstown

Three men charged after gardaí intercepted a van carrying €2 million of cannabis and uncovered another €1 million of various drugs in an apartment in Dublin have been remanded in custody.

Gary Hanley, 35, Sean Mackey, 53, and Jie Liu, 39, were arrested following an operation by officers attached to the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) on Thursday.

The three men appeared before a late sitting of Dublin District Court on Saturday, charged with unlawful possession of 100 kilos of cannabis and having the drugs for sale or supply.

Det Gda Dean Healy said they could face more serious charges and the case related to “large-scale drug distribution”.

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Mr Hanley, a father of two from North Great Clarence Street, Dublin 1, who is on disability benefit, was refused bail.

Det Gda Healy applied for a remand in custody, citing the seriousness of the case and fears the men would have to “recoup” the loss from the seizure. He also cited flight risk concerns in the cases of Mr Liu and Mr Mackey.

Mr Liu, a food delivery driver formerly of Cedar Grove, Swords, Co Dublin, alone had additional charges for possessing a further €1 million worth of cannabis, MDMA, amphetamines and ketamine at an apartment in West End Villas, Blanchardstown, Dublin 14, allegedly leased by him.

He and Mr Mackey, a casino croupier of Blessington Street, Dublin 7, were granted bail, but both men required approval of €25,000 independent sureties before they could be released on strict terms.

The court heard Mr Mackey was originally from South Africa but is now an Irish national with dual citizenship, having lived in the State for 20 years.

Mr Hanley and Mr Mackey will face their next hearings at Cloverhill District Court on Thursday. Mr Liu will appear there the following day.

Det Gda Dean Healy told the court they made no reply when charged.

It was alleged that Gary Hanley drove to Blanchardstown Shopping Centre in a Hyundai Tucson and met two other vehicles. Mr Mackey was allegedly in a Toyota Corolla, and Mr Liu was driving an Opel Vivaro van.

After a short interaction, the detective claimed they drove to Athboy, Co Meath, where phones were exchanged.

The contested bail hearing was told that they drove back to Dublin in “close proximity” convoy but were intercepted on the N3 northbound.

About 100 kilos of cannabis worth €2 million were recovered in the van allegedly driven by Mr Liu. The court heard gardaí found the additional €1 million worth of various drugs following a search at the apartment rented by him in Blanchardstown.

The court heard that Gary Hanley’s car was stopped a short distance away, and he allegedly locked the doors as gardaí approached and began to “smash” a phone.

Judge Kelly heard that officers downloaded from a phone photos and messages “regarding distribution on a large scale”.

A comprehensive file is to be drafted for the Director of Public Prosecution, and further, more serious charges were expected, the court heard.

Other phones seized were encrypted, the bail hearing was told.

The GNDOCB officer strongly believed they would attempt to “recoup the financial loss” from the seizure.

Solicitor Matthew Kenny pleaded for bail, describing the evidence against his clients, Mr Hanley and Mr Mackey, as circumstantial. He disputed the garda’s assertion that Mr Mackey was a flight risk.

He said the man had lived in Ireland for 20 years, and his adult son had offered to stand €5,000 bail.

Donal Quigley, solicitor for Mr Liu, submitted that his client was now an Irish national, no longer had Chinese citizenship and had no means to flee.

The defence lawyers submitted they had the presumption of innocence but risked facing a lengthy remand in custody pending trial.

The judge was told it would likely be dealt with at a higher level in the Circuit Court, but the trial wouldn’t be heard for another two or three years.

Mr Mackey did not apply for legal aid, which was granted to Mr Hanley and Liu.

On taking up bail, Mr Mackey and Mr Liu must surrender passports and not apply for replacements, notify gardaí of address changes, be contactable 24/7 by phone, and sign on twice daily at Garda stations.

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