Five men arrested in connection with the largest cocaine seizure in the history of the State faced new drug charges on Tuesday at Mallow District Court.
Vitaliy Vlasoi, 31; Mykhailo Gavryk, 30; Harold Estoesta, 30; Cumali Ozgen, 48; and Saeid Hassani, 37, faced two new charges each—one for possession of cocaine for sale or supply with a value in excess of €13,000 in Irish waters and one for possession of cocaine for sale or supply with a value in excess of €13,000 outside of Irish territorial waters. All five were issued the new charges at Mallow courthouse on Tuesday morning.
The men had previously been charged in connection with the same incident—the seizure of some 2.25 tonnes of cocaine on the ship, MV Matthew, off the Cork coast in September. They had previously been charged with conspiracy to have in their possession, on September 24, cocaine for sale or supply in excess of €13,000 in contravention of Sections 5 and 15a of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977.
The five appeared in Mallow District Court and all the defendants were remanded in further custody until November 28, to appear before Mallow District Court via videolink.
Detective Garda Mark Donovan of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) told Mallow District Court that he charged Ukrainian national Vitaliy Vlasoi.
“In those charges it says that drugs were in my possession. Nothing was in my possession,” Mr Vlasoi replied to the charge after caution, the court heard.
His solicitor Joseph Cuddigan said he was not in a position to apply for bail on Tuesday but was putting the State on notice.
As bail on the previous charge made against his client can only be applied for at the High Court, but bail for the new drugs charges can be brought at the District Court, he questioned which court bail could be applied in. “The difficulty here is the bail difference, we can’t have my client languishing in prison for an untold period of time,” Mr Cuddigan said.
The charges previously pressed cannot be tried at District Court level and the State has 42 days to present a book of evidence on the case. But that book of evidence has not yet been served and new charges have now been brought, Mr Cuddigan noted. “I’ll be seeking an explanation as to why the book of evidence was not available today,” Mr Cuddigan said.
Dutch national Cumali Ozgen appeared with the aid of a Dutch interpreter. He made no reply after he was issued the new charges. Solicitor David O’Meara asked the court that his client be assigned legal aid on the new matter and he reserved his position on bail.
Filippino national Harold Estoesta also appeared before Mallow District Court on Tuesday. Judge Roberts said that Filipino interpreters “are few in this country” and the court was unable to find one today.
Det. Gda Redmond O’Leary said that Mr Estoesta said ”no comment” when he was charged with the new offences and cautioned.
Mr Estoesta’s solicitor Aiden Desmond said that he was reserving his position on bail and he was granted legal aid on the new charge. Mr Estoesta thanked the court as he was leaving in garda custody.
Ukrainian Mykhailo Gavryk was aided in court by a Russian interpreter.
Det. Gda David Moran said that Mr Gavryk made no reply when he was charged with the two new offences.
Solicitor Cathal Lombard, appearing for solicitor Frank Buttimer, also said he would reserve his position on bail and applied for legal aid in relation to the new charge outside of Irish territorial waters.
Saeid Hassani, an Iranian national, was aided in court by a Farsi interpreter. Det. Gda Lorraine Brennan said that Mr Hassani replied “I’m not guilty” after he was read and given a copy of the new charges.
His solicitor Don Ryan also applied for legal aid in respect of the new charge and reserved his position on bail. He requested expediency in the case, which has already “had a fair deal of time”, and asked that the Director of Public Prosecutions advance the case as far as possible.
He also noted that Mr Hassani was “very clear in his answer to the charges”.
“That’s his position and it is duly noted,” Judge Roberts said. “I do note your position regarding any delay.”