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Investigation extends across Europe after local arrests

March 25th, 2024 9:00 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

The scene at Leap last Thurday morning as a Garda investigation got underway.

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GARDAÍ are liaising with police colleagues abroad and have also carried out searches at two residential properties in Dublin as part of their investigation after the arrest of 10 men in Leap and Tragumna last week, a court heard last week.

At a special sitting of Bandon District Court on Monday evening, gardaí applied to extend their detention by a further 48 hours in order to carry out more investigations and examine numerous electronic devices which were seized during the operation.

Gardaí suspect that the men may have been attempting to smuggle cocaine into West Cork and may be connected to an international crime group.

The 10 men, ranging in age from 20s to 50s and all legally represented, had previously appeared at a special sitting of Bandon District  last Friday evening where their period of detention was extended by 72 hours.

Chief Supt Vincent O’Sullivan of the Cork West and Cork North Division had told Judge James McNulty that the 10 men are being held at various garda stations in the county under the provision of Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007.

At Monday evening’s court sitting, Insp John O’Connell of Mallow Garda Station said he was applying for a further extension of detention for 48 hours for each of the 10 men. Insp O’Connell also sought an application for reporting restrictions to be applied on their application for operational reasons.

However, Judge McNulty said he would be wary to prohibit the media from publishing details of the hearing. The judge did read parts of the application himself rather than they being read aloud in court.

Solicitor Plunkett Taaffe, representing one of the men, said he was concerned about the ‘saturated’  media coverage of the case so far, when no one has been charged of any offence.

He said there have been references to billions of euro in drugs and Hezbollah, which were not mentioned at last Friday’s court sitting.

He expressed concern that this could ‘contaminate a jury pool’ but Judge McNulty said he didn’t think the coverage was saturated.

Chief Supt O’Sullivan said that since March 15th, two residences in Dublin and one commercial premises in Belfast have been searched while they are also liaising with colleagues in Scotland, Northern Ireland, France, and The Netherlands.

He indicated that further searches are expected to take place and they needed extra time to question the 10 men following the latest searches and the discovery of more electronic devices.

He told the judge that the mobile phones seized could be divided into two categories: those that could be attributed to the suspects and those not attributed to any person.

‘All of them have been asked to provide pin numbers to the phones and data is currently being assessed. However, not all the suspects have provided pins and this has caused difficulty in an effort to gain access to them,’ said Chief Supt O’Sullivan.

Judge McNulty granted gardaí the 48-hour extension to question the 10 men until Thursday morning.

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