Republic of Ireland news

Four men appear in Cork court charged in relation to €160 million cocaine seizure

Mallow District Court in Co Cork where four males arrested in connection with an investigation into Ireland's largest ever drugs seizure are to appear. (Niall Carson/PA)
Gráinne Ní Aodha and Cillian Sherlock, PA

Four men have appeared in court charged in relation to Ireland’s largest ever drugs haul.

Cocaine worth around an estimated €160 million (£139 million) was found on a bulk cargo ship off the Irish coast last week.

The men appeared in Mallow District Court on Tuesday morning charged with possession of drugs, namely cocaine, on September 24 for the purpose of supplying it within the Irish State.

Cumali Ozgen, a 48-year-old with an address in the Netherlands; Saeid Hassani, a 37-year-old Iranian national; Mykhalio Gavryk, a 30-year-old Ukrainian national; and Vitaliy Vlasoi, a 31-year-old Ukrainian national, appeared before judge Colm Roberts on Tuesday morning.

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Detective Garda David Moran said that Gavryk was charged on October 2 and made no reply when cautioned.

Detective Garda Martin Donovan said that Ozgen, who required a Dutch translator, made no reply when he was charged and cautioned.

Det Garda Val Russell told the court that Vlasoi, was charged and cautioned on October 2 at 8.43pm.

The court heard that Vlasoi replied: “I saw straight or direct evidence of the connection between the captain and another vessel, or with somebody else who he contacted. It was shown as straight evidence, I didn’t see straight evidence against myself.”

Detective Garda Lorraine Brennan said Hassani, for whom proceedings were translated through Farsi, was arrested on October 2 and made no reply to the charge.

All four men were remanded in custody and are due to appear in court again on October 10 via video link.

A total of 2,253kg of cocaine was found on the MV Matthew cargo ship after members of the Irish Army Ranger Wing captured the vessel off the coast by abseiling from a helicopter.

Police believe the cocaine, seized after the dramatic military operation at sea, was destined for distribution beyond Ireland, potentially into the UK and continental Europe.

A fishing trawler that grounded off the coast of Co Wexford days before the seizure was also being monitored as part of the operation, amid suspicions it was en route to rendezvous with the cargo ship.

Three men have already appeared at courts in Wexford and Waterford in relation to the major seizure.

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