‘€440m worth of cocaine floating in stormy waters’

A BOAT sank off the west Cork coast and €440 million worth of cocaine floated in the stormy waters as one man made it to a coastal farmhouse to alert the rescue services that another man was still in the sea.

That was the dramatic picture painted for a jury of nine men and three women as the biggest drug trial in the history of the State got underway at Cork circuit criminal court.

At courtroom two of Cork circuit criminal court, three Englishmen, Perry Wharrie, 48, of Pryles Lane, Essex, England; Joseph Daly, 41 from Carisbrook Avenue, Bexley, Kent, and Martin Wanden, 45, of no fixed abode, all deny the charges of possessing cocaine, possessing it with intent to sell or supply, and having it for sale or supply when its street value exceeded €13,000 on July 2 2007 at Dunlough Bay, Mizen, Goleen, Co Cork.

“The story begins in this case on July 2, 2007 on that morning when a young man called to Michael O’Donovan and his mother’s farm near Dunmanus Bay,” the prosecution senior counsel Tom Creed, SC told the court.

“This man, calling himself Gerard O’Leary pointed towards Dunmanus Bay and informed Mr O’Donovan that three people had been on a boat that sank, one got ashore and one was in the water needing help.

“The immediate concern was to get the man out of the water. The winds were force five or six, more or less gale force, serious weather to be out in a boat. Eventually, a man was fished out of the water. The prosecution say that man was Martin Wanden. He was brought to hospital, as was Mr O’Leary, suffering from cold and hypothermia. Mr O’Leary gave his names as Gerard O’Leary. He was not. He was Gerard Hagan,” said Mr Creed.

Some 61 bales of cocaine were retrieved from the water in the days after the sinking of the rib and a 62nd was recovered much later.

The court heard that a waterproof box also recovered, provided vital clues including a mobile phone — allegedly purchased by Martin Wandon using an alias. Also found in the box was a satellite phone with a global positioning system, that was in contact with another satellite phone.

Prosecution said it was the State’s case that a boat came across the Atlantic to make a rendezvous 50 kilometres south west of Mizen, where a call was logged. Mr Creed said the two boats were a catamaran, the Lucky Day, which was in Barbados in May 2007, and a smaller boat — a rib — manufactured in South Africa and purchased for £37,500.

“Mr Wandon was in and out of South Africa on numerous occasions under various aliases,” Mr Creed said.

“The prosecution’s case is that the other phone was on board the Lucky Day and Gerard Hagan was on the Lucky Day boat and he came on to the rib being operated by Wandon and another person, not before the court, near the weatherbuoy 50 kms south west of Mizen Head. It was probably destined to go to Dunmanus Bay but it broke down ... As a result of someone putting diesel into a petrol engine it broke down and sank,” Mr Creed said.

On the day of the sinking of the rib off Sheep’s Head, people involved in the rescue saw two men coming towards a parked vehicle from the direction of the sea. These two men said there was a man floating in the sea and was in need of help. Mr Creed remarked that it was strange that the two men were walking in the opposite direction. Mr Creed SC said those two men were the defendants, Daly and Wharrie, arrested two days later in Schull.

The case continues today.


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