Irish couple in custody over €3m drug haul in Spain


SPANISH POLICE were last night questioning six people, including an Irish couple, arrested following the seizure of €3 million worth of drugs on board an Irish-registered yacht off the Spanish coast.

A 53-year-old man and a 51- year-old woman from Cork were arrested in the Marbella area of southern Spain along with two Britons, while another two Britons were arrested on board the yacht Colin Hannah.

The yacht was stopped by the Spanish navy off Cadiz at about 3.30pm on Thursday and searched by officers who found 500 kilos of cannabis resin with an estimated street value of €3 million.

It is believed the consignment originated in Morocco and was being brought to either the UK or Ireland for importation and distribution through criminal gangs.

It is understood the arrests follow an intelligence-led operation informed by Customs officers in Cork, who have been monitoring the movements of the Cork man for the past two years.

Gardaí in the National Drugs Unit have been liaising closely with their Spanish counterparts regarding the man’s activities. The Serious Organised Crime Agency in the UK has also been involved in the operation, codenamed Ciana/ Fortuna.

The Cork man purchased the Colin Hannah a number of years ago. The yacht left Crosshaven some 21 months ago for Spain, but the Cork man has since returned to Crosshaven on a number of occasions with British associates.

It is believed the gang were under pressure after another shipment of drugs was discovered by Spanish police after the yacht carrying it collided with a vessel near Estepona earlier this year.

One of the Britons arrested with the Corkman is understood to be the main financier behind both shipments. He has been observed visiting Crosshaven with the Cork man, where they went drinking together in local pubs.

Originally from Grange on Cork’s southside, the Cork man lived for a number of years in Kinsale, where he ran a business, but in more recent times has alternated between living in Carrigaline and Spain, where his partner has a number of properties.

The man is well known to gardaí and Customs officials in Ireland, who believe he has been involved in some of the biggest cannabis shipments into Ireland over the past 25 years. One source described his arrest as “a major scalp” in the war on drugs.

The man reached a settlement with the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab), believed to be in the region of €400,000, in the late 1990s when he was forced to sell his 278sq m (3,000sq ft) house at Moneygourney near Douglas.

He would have associated with convicted Cork drug smugglers such as the late Edward Judd Scanlon and former priest John McCarthy, and Cab targets in Cork such as Tommy O’Callaghan and Paddy McSweeney. “This man would have been involved in some of the biggest shipments of cannabis into west Cork, going back to the Karma in Courtmacsherry back in 1991, and we would also suspect he was involved in the Posidonia in Schull in 1999,” said the source.

The man also came to Garda attention in 1994 when he tried to set up an ecstasy-making factory in Co Dublin for George “the Penguin” Mitchell, but the plant was raided by the Garda National Drugs Unit. He was questioned but gardaí were unable to obtain sufficient evidence to charge him.