Man accumulated €439,000 drugs stash to pay gambling debts

Aidan Crowne fled bail in 2008 but returned when brother became terminally ill

Gardaí found 46.3kg of cannabis herb in Aidan Crowne’s house in 2008. Photograph: Getty Images

Gardaí found 46.3kg of cannabis herb in Aidan Crowne’s house in 2008. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A 39 year old former shopping centre manager who fled the country after being caught with a near €500,000 drugs stash in order to pay off gambling debts has been jailed for five years.

Aidan Crowne pleaded guilty to possessing €439,000 worth of cannabis resin for sale or supply at a house at Kilquane, Castletownroche, Co Cork on November 19th, 2008.

Det Sgt Lar O’Brien told Cork Circuit Criminal Court how gardaí had mounted a surveillance operation on Crowne who lived at Norwood Court in Rochestown in Cork city.

They shadowed him to Castletownroche in north Cork on November 18th, 2008, and again the next day where he was seen entering a house in a quiet rural area at Kilquane outside the village.

On the second occasion, gardaí stopped Crowne while driving away from the house and found that he had 4.8kg of cannabis herb with a street value of €34,000 hidden in his car.

Gardaí searched the house and found a further 46.3kg of cannabis herb with a street value of €324,600 and eight kilos of cannabis resin with a street value of €80,000, said Det Sgt O’Brien.

Crowne was arrested for questioning and he readily accepted responsibility for both the drugs in the car and the drugs in the house which had a combined street value of €439,000, he said.

He had rented the house under a false name specifically for the purpose of storing and distributing drugs for someone else and he was to be paid €1,000 a week for doing such work, the court heard.

Fled the country

Crowne was charged with drug offences in November 2008 but fled the country before his case came to trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court and he went to the UK and later further afield.

However when his mother died in 2013 and he failed to come home, it caused some shame amongst family members so when his brother became terminally ill this year, Crowne arranged to come back.

Det Sgt O’Brien accepted that Crowne was a chronic gambler who had run up considerable debts of hundreds of thousands of euros and that he had got involved in drug dealing to try and pay off these debts.

Defence counsel, Jim O’Mahony SC said that Crowne, whom the court heard had no previous convictions, was thoroughly ashamed of both his drug dealing and his decision to flee the country.

Mr O’Mahony said Crowne returned voluntarily knowing he was facing charges and a custodial sentence and it was not a case of him having to be arrested abroad and extradited home.

He said Crowne had assisted and co-operated with gardaí and his guilty plea had spared the State the expense and difficulty of prosecuting the case against him and he deserved credit for that.

He said Crowne wanted to apologise to the court for his errors of judgement in getting involved in drug dealing and in fleeing the country and to his family for the shame he had brought them.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said the amount of drugs with a street value of close to €500,000 was substantial and suggested Crowne was a significant figure in the drugs trade.

He sentenced him to seven years in jail but suspended the final two years and he backdated the sentence to July 18th when Crowne was first taken into custody following his return from the UK.