A BANTRY man was one of a group of six jailed in the UK for a combined 140 years for one of the biggest MDMA smuggling operations ever dealt with by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Defendant Leon Reilly (50) from Dunbeacon, with Danny Brown, Stefan Baldauf, Tony Borg, Peter Murray and Philip Lawson, were sentenced at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court for their involvement in a conspiracy to smuggle almost half a tonne of MDMA (ecstasy) into Australia in the arm of an excavator machine.
Between June 2019 and June 2020, Brown and Baldauf oversaw the operation to export the drugs concealed in the lead-lined arm of an excavator. The drugs had an estimated street value of £44m if sold in Australia.
The UK-based conspirators arranged the shipment and the sale at auction of the excavator to the ultimate purchasers of the drugs, in Australia.
Unknown to the group, Australian custom authorities had discovered the drugs, removed them from the excavator, and sent the machine on empty.
The gang used encrypted Encrochat mobile phones to further their crime, and demonstrating the use of the EncroChat phones was crucial to proving the case against Brown and Baldauf. The prosecution were able to link Brown to his Encrochat phone through a picture of his French bulldog Bob, which he sent to one of the other gang members. The dog had the same number on his collar that he had been sending messages on. Baldauf sent a photo of his location, which accidentally captured his own reflection on his way to meet Brown, which was used to prove he had control of the device.
In June 2020, Brown and Baldauf were arrested, and further investigation led to the remaining defendants’ arrests in the following months.