10 years for man who transported €2.4m worth of drugs

A Limerick man who transported cocaine and ecstasy worth an estimated €2.4m has been jailed for 10 years by Judge Desmond Hogan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

A Limerick man who transported cocaine and ecstasy worth an estimated €2.4m has been jailed for 10 years by Judge Desmond Hogan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Patrick Forde (aged 30) of Pallasgreen, Limerick also received a five-year sentence to run concurrent to the 10 years for laundering €70,000 that he received by acting as a courier.

Forde’s wife, Valerie McKane (aged 28) was jailed for two years, with the last 12 months suspended, for her participation in the money-laundering operation.

Forde pleaded guilty to possession of the drugs for sale or supply on December 20, 2003. He also admitted eight counts of lodging a total of €15,300 at financial institutions in Limerick between May 20, and November 28, 2003, knowing it represented the proceeds of criminal conduct.

McKane pleaded guilty to 16 counts of possessing a total of €31,900 at financial institutions in Limerick, knowing that the money represented the proceeds of criminal conduct on dates between May 8 and November 28, 2003.

Detective Garda Patrick Kirwan told Mr Bernard Condon BL prosecuting, that on December 12, 2003, acting on confidential information, gardai stopped a lorry, driven by Forde, on the Old Airport Road, in Dublin, after it was observered leaving Dublin Port.

A search of the lorry revealed a black holdall bag, which contained a total of 22 packages of suspected drugs.

Det Garda Kirwan said the packages were analyzed and found to contain 30,397 ecstasy tablets, 17 kilograms of cocaine and a quantity of amphetamines. The drugs had an estimated street value of between €1,513,945 and €2.39m.

Forde admitted to gardaí that a French man had told him he would receive €30,000 to courier the drugs to the Abbeyleix / Portlaoise area. He never received the money.

He further admitted transporting drugs on three other occasions to Clonmel and four other times to Abbeyleix, for which he was paid €60,000 - €70,000.

Det Garda Kirwan told Mr Condon that Forde had gone on holidays to Las Vegas and bought a second hand Toyota Lexis. He saved the remainder in a credit union.

Det Garda Kirwan agreed with Mr Erwan Mill-Arden SC (with Ms Teresa Feaheny BL), defending, that Forde had made a full and frank admission to his participation in the operation.

Det Garda Kirwan accepted that Forde had initially turned down the offer to courier the drugs but relented after he had been approached a number of times. He said he did it for the cash.

Forde had passed some of the money onto his wife to lodge it in accounts but he confirmed that she had nothing to do with how the funds were raised.

Det Garda Seamus Padden, Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, told Mr Condon that the case had been referred to him to investigate the laundering of the money.

He said that Forde’s flat in Pallasgreen was searched in the precense of McKane, where two post office saving books, two credit union books and statements in relation to these accounts were seized. Statements in relation to three Bank of Ireland accounts were also seized.

Det Garda Padden said McKane and Forde each had a credit union account, a post office account, and a Bank of Ireland account in their own names.

McKane admitted to lodging her husband’s money to her own accounts and also to his accounts. She said that Forde would also lodge money in her account and in his own.

Det Garda Padden said McKane admitted to knowing that her husband had raised the cash doing "something dodgy" but she initially thought he was selling drink or pirate DVDs. She said that she eventually learned that it was the proceeds of drug trafficking.

Det Garda Padden agreed with Mr Gerry O’Brien SC (with Ms Martina Baxter BL), defending, that McKane did not know the nature or the extent of her husband’s dealings.

He further accepted that she had turned a "blind eye" to what her husband was doing because she was desperate to save a deposit for a house.

Mr Mill-Arden said Forde was originally from Caharconlish in Limerick. His mother moved to England when he was 12 years old after his parents separated. Forde stayed in Limerick where he left school to take care of his then nine year old sister. His father worked as a long distance lorry driver and would only return home at weekends.

Mr Mill-Arden said Forde had a previous good character with only one conviction for being drunk and disorderly. He had fully cooperated with gardai and had not come to their attention since this offense.

Mr O’Brien said McKane deeply regretted her involvement but she had only one thing in her mind - a house.

Judge Desmond Hogan said it was tragic, that somebody who had at an early age been a strong support for his family would come before the courts with an offense such as this.

He said Forde had committed this offense for money and carried it out for the advantage and profit of others.

Judge Hogan sentenced Forde to 10 years for the drug offense and five years for laundering the money, which are to be servered concurrently.

Judge Hogan said that McKane’s offense was at the lower end of the scale for money-laundering and she made no great attempt to hide or disperse the cash.

He sentenced McKane to two years in prison but suspended the last 12 months on condition that she keep the peace and be of good behavior for four years.

The case is due for mention on March 3 for processing an application for the the forfeiture to the State of the money in the couple’s accounts.

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