Two men involved in transporting over €3.4 million worth of cocaine have been jailed for nine and six years respectively.
Wayne Duffy (46) of Deerhaven Close, Clonee, Dublin 15, admitted possessing cocaine for sale or supply at B&Q car park, Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, Dublin on December 6, last.
Darren Coughlan (46) of Piercetown, Dunboyne, Co Meath pleaded guilty to the same offence.
A third man, Bernadus Jozef Scherrenberg (47) was sentenced earlier this year to seven years imprisonment for the same offence.
Scherrenberg, of Hoevenbos, Zoetermeer, Holland had come forward from the District Court on signed pleas of guilty to the same offence.
Passing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Friday, Judge Patricia Ryan said this was a planned and premeditated operation. She noted the value of the drugs and that Duffy had previous convictions for drug offences.
Judge Ryan sentenced Duffy to nine years’ imprisonment and sentenced Coughlan to six years’ imprisonment. She backdated both sentences to the first date both men went into custody, December 6th, last.
At a previous sentence hearing, Garda Eoghan Byrne told Elva Duffy BL, prosecuting, that gardaí got a tip-off about a large quantity of controlled drugs and a Peugeot car.
A covert surveillance operation was set up around Duffy's home in Clonee on the day, and gardaí followed as Duffy drove the Peugeot to a house in Ratoath and picked up Coughlan.
The pair were then followed to the carpark of B&Q at the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre where they met up with Scherrenberg who had arrived in a jeep.
Scherrenberg used a B&Q trolley to transport five large plastic tubs from the jeep to the back of the Peugeot. Duffy helped him load the tubs into the back of the car where Coughlan was sitting.
Blocks of cocaine
The three men were then arrested, although Scherrenberg attempted to flee and threw his mobile phone away before being caught by gardaí. Two additional tubs were discovered in the jeep.
The court heard that each tub was filled with a sand-like substance that concealed blocks of cocaine. The total amount of cocaine weighed 49kg and had a street value of €3,435,000.
The Peugeot had a hidden compartment operated by hydraulics, which required the engine to be on and the de-mister button to be engaged before it could be opened by a separate fob.
During a further search of Coughlan’s house in Dunboyne, gardaí seized a plastic bag in the rafters of a shed containing €45,250 in cash.
Sergeant Darren Coller said that Coughlan had no knowledge of the cash in his shed and was “genuinely surprised” to hear it had been found.
Sgt Coller agreed with Keith Spencer BL, defending Coughlan, that his client was “at the lowest rung of the ladder” in terms of the operation.
The sergeant further agreed that Duffy claimed responsibility for the cash and also for getting Coughlan involved.
Duffy told gardaí that days before the offence he had been told to collect the cash, count it and await instructions. Duffy said his friend Coughlan “wanted a few bob” and that he was going to pay him a thousand euro to “help him out with a few quid”.
Sean Gillane SC, defending Duffy, said his client cooperated with gardaí apart from refusing to give details of an encrypted phone in his possession.
Garda Byrne agreed with Mr Gillane that Duffy had “expressed fear of certain individuals” in relation to a debt he owed. The garda further agreed that Duffy had no assets and lived in “limited material circumstances”.
Duffy has 11 previous convictions, all from the District Court, including three drugs offences.
Coughlan has 23 previous, mostly for road traffic offences, including four from outside the State.
The court heard that Duffy came from a good family and had worked ever since he left school after the Junior Cert. Mr Gillane said his client has four children and that this was his first time in custody.
Mr Spencer said Coughlan had a difficult upbringing, never knew his father’s identity and was exposed to alcoholism and substance abuse at an early age. He said his client had a good work history.
The court heard Coughlan was a very dedicated father to his nine-year-old daughter who was “the light in his life”. A letter from Merchants Quay said Coughlan was drug-free and dealing with his addictions.
Mr Spencer said his client suffered from depression but was on medication and was committed to mending his life.
Judge Ryan said the mitigating factors in Duffy’s case was his early guilty plea, his excellent work history, his co-operation with gardaí and his using his time in custody well.
She said the mitigating factors in Coughlan’s case were his early guilty plea, his lack of previous convictions of note, the hardship his being in custody will have on his family and the fact that he was the least involved in the enterprise.