Cocaine smugglers given 30-year prison sentences

 

Two of the three Englishmen involved in a €440 million cocaine smuggling operation off the west Cork coast have been sentenced to 30 years in prison while the third man was given a 25-year jail sentence.

Martin Wanden (45), Perry Wharrie (48) and Joe Daly (41) were each convicted of three drugs offences by a jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday.

The discovery of the cocaine bales in the sea after the smuggling operation went awry, was the biggest ever seizure of the drug in the State.

Wanden, of no fixed abode was sentenced to 30 years in prison as was Wharrie, from Pyrles Lane, Loughton, Essex. Daly from Carrisbrooke Avenue, Bexley, Kent was given 25 years.

Speaking as he handed down the sentences, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “I think these three defendants are committed and dedicated to this criminal activity. None of them suffer from any addiction Let’s face it, they are in it for the money. They are prepared to deal in drugs, to deal in death and destruction for profit.... that is what they were in it for.”

Judge Ó Donnabháin said it was clear from the level of organisation, the money spent and the commitment of those involved this was a serious criminal activity and the three accused were not innocents who got caught up in something.

“To described them as mere storemen or carriers is wrong, these men were members of a gang. They knew at all stages what was going on, they hooked up for this crime. There is no evidence that any one of them was the leader but they were definitely very willing lieutenants."

Judge O Donnabhain noted the crime had been facilitated in a significant way by the ability of the gang, including Wharrie, who has a previous conviction for murder, to obtain false passports in the UK and that seemed to him to indicate a laxness which was “wide open to abuse”.

The three men were convicted of three charges including possessing more than €13,000 worth of cocaine for sale or supply contrary to section 15a of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1999, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life.

During the trial, the court heard some 360 testimonies from around 300 witnesses, including dozens from west Cork who were involved in the discovery and recovery of the drugs after one man, Gerard Hagan, managed to make it ashore when a rigid inflatable boat (rib) capsized.

Hagan (24), from Hollowcroft, Liverpool, had already pleaded guilty at the start of the trial on May 20th to possessing over €13,000 worth of drugs for sale or supply and has been remanded in custody by Judge Ó Donnabháin for sentencing on November 4th next.

The prosecution case against Joe Daly included evidence that he took a ferry to Ireland on June 15th, driving a blue 4x4 towing the rib that was used to transport the drugs.

Evidence was heard that he was on the cliffs at Dunlough Bay on the morning the rib sank.

The state also produced evidence that Daly left Dunlough Bay with his co-accused Perry Wharrie and went to ground for two days before they were arrested two days later, exhausted and dishevelled, near Schull, by Sgt Gerard Prendeville.

The State also produced evidence that his fingerprints were found on seating removed from the drugs Rib that was found at a rented house at Farnamanagh, as well as on a piece of paper with various logistical information connected to the drugs smuggling operation.

The State produced evidence against Wanden showing he was in the water near the drugs and that he had travelled to Ireland with the rib on June 15th, and that a mobile phone was recovered from the rib that was registered to an alias, Steven Witsey, that he used.

The State's case against Wharrie included evidence that he was at a cliff-top when the smuggling operation went awry and that he fled, as well as evidence that a false passport belonging to Hagan was found in a rented car used by Wharrie.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern today praised gardai and the Irish Coast Guard for their work in bringing the three to justice.

“I welcome the conclusion of the case. The good work of those involved has been rewarded, I want to thank everyone involved,” he said.