10-year sentence for €440m drugs haul


A 24-YEAR-OLD Englishman has been jailed for 10 years for his involvement in the largest cocaine smuggling operation yet detected when some €440 million worth of the drug was recovered from the sea off west Cork last year.

Gerard Hagan from Hollowcroft, Liverpool was jailed for 10 years by Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin after he pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to possessing the huge haul of drugs for sale or supply at Dunlough Bay, Mizen Head, on July 2nd, 2007.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said Hagan's case differed significantly from those of his co-accused, Englishmen Martin Wanden and Perry Wharrie, whom he had earlier jailed for 30 years, and Joe Daly, who he had jailed for 25 years, after an eight-week trial.

"There is no comparison between you and the men who engaged in such blatantly cynical perjury - the manner [in] which you met the case puts you on an entirely different pedestal . . . it was probably the most cynical perjured criminality before a jury I have ever seen."

Det Sgt Feargal Foley said Hagan was approached in Spain, where he lived, and was offered £5,000 (€6,140) to travel to Trinidad and Tobago, where he was told to find a catamaran, Lucky Day, crewed by two Lithuanians. Hagan was provided with a false passport in the name of Gerard O'Leary, which he collected from the Irish Embassy in London after other gang members set up a fake solicitor's office in London to dupe embassy officials.

Hagan's role was to ensure that a consignment of 1.5 tonnes of cocaine was picked up 400km off the Trinidadian coast, and to confirm to more senior gang members in the UK that the drugs had been delivered to the catamaran.

Hagan then travelled across the Atlantic on the Lucky Day, which left Barbados on May 25th with its cargo to rendezvous with a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) off the west Cork coast on July 2nd. Hagan transferred to the RIB along with the drugs.

The RIB stalled after diesel had been put in one of its petrol engines. It was carried by heavy swells into Dunlough Bay, where it capsized. Hagan and two other men were thrown into the sea.

Hagan made it ashore and raised the alarm at the home of a local farmer, Michael O'Donovan, while another man also made it ashore, but fled. The third man, Martin Wanden, was found floating in the sea suffering from hypothermia.

Det Sgt Foley told the court that Hagan initially refused to give any information after his arrest, but he later provided assistance by confirming he travelled across the Atlantic on the Lucky Day and identifying the Lithuanian crew from newspaper pictures.

This enabled gardaí to link the Lucky Day through satellite phone records with a satellite phone found in the RIB and with another found by customs officer on the rocks, and tied in Wanden and his co-accused with the drug smuggling operation.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said Hagan's plea saved the State some expense. He took into account his young age and the fact that he had no serious previous convictions.

He backdated the 10-year sentence to July 2nd, 2007, when Hagan was taken into custody.