Customs officer `did not know' of `sting' operation on drugs haul

 

Heroin and ecstasy which then had a street value of £1 million were carried into Dublin Airport by a man on a flight from Amsterdam in 1995, a jury has been told.

A Customs and Excise officer told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court he was not informed that a "sting" operation was being run by the Garda Siochana in relation to the haul. If there had been an arrangement to allow a "controlled delivery", he would have been told.

Mr Declan Griffin (29), Bunratty Road, Coolock, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to six charges of possession of heroin and ecstasy for sale and supply and importing heroin and ecstasy at Dublin Airport on December 20th, 1995.

Prosecuting counsel Mr Denis Vaughan Buckley SC told the jury that packages containing 2,999.4 grams of heroin and 2,056 tablets of ecstasy were recovered from luggage carried by the accused at Dublin Airport on that date.

The street value of the drugs was then £1 million and would now have a total value of £500,000. He suggested the jury would agree the accused had been "caught red-handed".

Customs official Mr Seamus McKnight said he was with his colleagues Mr Patrick Lynch and Mr Kevin Murtagh when the accused collected two black hold-all bags from the luggage carousel after he arrived on a flight from Amsterdam. The accused also had a suit-carrier. Mr Griffin placed the hold-alls on a luggage trolley and was stopped at the "blue" channel by Mr Lynch who asked if the bags were his. Four packages which were tightly wrapped in black adhesive tape were recovered from a hold-all.

Mr McKnight said he opened one of these packages and noted it contained brown powder which he knew to be heroin. One package contained ecstasy tablets.

He told defence counsel Mr Hugh Hartnett SC in cross-examination that the accused made no reply to questions concerning the packages and on arrest had been "shocked". Mr McKnight said on the night Mr Griffin did not mention the name of Det Sgt Denis Palmer. Mr Hartnett suggested the accused was "very aware" that Det Sgt Palmer was there to meet him and the garda also had been "shell shocked" at the arrest of Mr Griffin.

Mr McKnight agreed there had been a request that Det Garda Noirin O'Sullivan (now inspector) was to be alerted when Mr Griffin came through the airport. He was present when that was done, to his recollection, by Mr Murtagh.

The witness told Mr Hartnett he was unaware of a statement by Insp O'Sullivan that she remained at her desk waiting confirmation of the accused's arrival and when she heard nothing she presumed he had not travelled and continued on other operational matters.

Mr McKnight confirmed he sent out Mr Lynch and Mr Murtagh to search the airport area to ascertain if there were gardai on surveillance duties after four suspicious phonecalls were made to his office. Each time was it was answered nobody replied.

Mr Hartnett put it to him that he was suspicious gardai were running things on their own. Mr McKnight agreed he later discovered the phone calls to the office were made by Det Sgt Palmer.

He said he asked Det Sgt Palmer whether he officially would like to arrest Mr Griffin and whether he was on duty, to which Det Sgt Palmer replied: `No,' and asked if he had to arrest him.

The trial before Judge Dominic Lynch is expected to continue for a fortnight.