Two men appear in court charged in connection with €157M cocaine seizure on 'mother ship' MV Matthew

TWO men appeared in Wexford District Court today charged in connection with the seizure of €157m worth of cocaine from the ‘mother ship’ MV Matthew.

The two men dressed in casual clothing arrived under Garda escort from Cork Prison each to face a further single charge in relation to the drugs haul.

Jamie Harbron (31) of 26 South Avenue, Billingham, Stockton-on-Trent. UK, and Ukrainian national, Vitaliy Lapa (60) of no fixed address, were each charged with on September 24, 2023, attempted to commit an offence under Section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, with the importation of drugs for sale or supply to a value of more than €13,000.

Det. Garda James Doolan, of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, told the court that he charged both accused this morning.

Det. Gda Doolan said when he put the charge to Harbron the accused made no reply following caution.

He also told Judge Cheatle that when he put the charge to Lapa he made no comment.

Sergt. Victor Isdell said they are still awaiting directions from the DPP.

Solicitor, Marie Murphy, made an application for free legal aid and agreed to have the case adjourned to Monday next.

Granting the application, Judge Cheatle said he would adjourn the case to Monday next to await directions from the DPP.

Both accused were remanded in custody to Cork Prison to appear before Wexford District Court via video link on Monday next.

At a previous sitting of Wexford District court the two accused had appeared on a charge of conspiring to import drugs.

Det. Garda Liam Mangan had told the earlier court hearing that the crew (two accused) of the ‘Castlemore’ were working with the MV Matthew captain to import cocaine from South America to Ireland.

Det. Garda Mangan had also told the court that the situation had come to light after the trawler ‘Castlemore’ had run aground off the Wexford coast on Sunday, September 24.

The newly purchased fishing vessel had reportedly been in contact with the ‘mother ship’ and had been monitored by the joint task force from the previous Friday.

Following a huge joint task force operation involving armed gardai, the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the Naval Service and the Elite Army Ranger Wing, saw the Panamanian bulk cargo vessel, the MV Matthew detained off the Cork coast.

The ship was brought back to Cork Harbour under an escort and gardai eventually announced that they had uncovered 2.25 tonnes of cocaine on board, the biggest drugs seizure in the history of the state. The cocaine was valued at €157 million.

Det. Mangan had also told the previous hearing that the two accused men were airlifted from the deck of the stricken trawler ‘Castlemore’ off Blackwater, Co. Wexford, onto the patrol ship the LE Williams Butler Yeats and taken into custody.

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