383 witness statements in cocaine haul trial

ALMOST 400 witnesses have made statements to gardaí in the case of the biggest drugs haul in Ireland, it emerged in court yesterday.

Four men remain in custody, awaiting trial, following the summertime seizure of bales of cocaine — estimated to be worth tens of millions of euro — off the west Cork coast.

Security throughout the courthouse at Washington Street, Cork, was intense as members of the Garda Emergency Response Unit took up positions inside and outside the building.

Prosecution senior counsel Tom Creed told Judge Patrick J Moran at Cork Circuit Criminal Court that 383 statements had been taken and 30 more statements from witnesses were yet to be taken.

Mr Creed referred to the amount of evidence that was outstanding last month and remained to be served on the defendants.

Mr Creed said 98% of that evidence had been served in the past few weeks.

It had been hoped that the trial of the four accused men would be ready to proceed in February 2008. However, it was suggested yesterday that the case would not be ready to proceed until sometime around Easter 2008. Further time is needed by prosecution and defence representatives to consider the substantial volume of evidence in the case.

Judge Moran adjourned the case for mention only to February 4 next for the purposes of fixing a date for the trial sometime in 2008. The four accused are charged with possessing cocaine and possessing it with intent to sell or supply, on July 2, at Dunlough Bay, Mizen, Goleen, Co Cork.

The four accused are: Perry Wharrie, aged 47, of 60 Pryles Lane, Essex, England; Gerard Hagan, aged 23, from 85 Hollow Croft, Liverpool; Joseph Daly, aged 40, from 9 Carisbrook Avenue, Bexley, Kent; and Englishman Martin Wanden, aged 44, of no fixed abode.

While the case will be back before the court in February, for the purposes of fixing a date for the trial, Gerard Hagan will, meantime, appear before Cork Circuit Criminal Court on December 20 to make an application to be released on bail.

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