A 46-year-old carpenter has been jailed for seven years for his role in a sophisticated drugs operation which saw over €1m worth of cannabis transported across Europe to a small cottage in Co Limerick.
Details of the elaborate enterprise to bring the drugs, which originated in Holland, to Limerick via Germany the UK and Northern Ireland unfolded at Limerick Circuit Court.
Shane Ferguson with an address at Meadowbrook, Mill Road, Limerick, has been given a seven-year prison sentence for his part in the international drugs trail.
Kieran Nevin, 37, with an address at Oliver Plunkett Street, St Mary's Park, Limerick was jailed for five years for his role in the operation.
Both men pleaded to possession of the drugs for the purpose of sale or supply at Ahane, Co Limerick, on 25 May, 2012.
The court heard that Ferguson, a carpenter, hired a van in Limerick insured it and drove to Points Pass near Newry in Northern Ireland where he collected a consignment of five boxes.
The consignment, which originated in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, contained 52kg of cannabis herb, which had an estimated street value of €1,045,138.
Coded stickers on the boxes from courier company UPS, enabled gardaí to track it from Eindhoven in the Netherlands to Cologne in Germany, before it arrived at Castle Donnington airport in Britain from where it was brought to an address in Points Pass, Newry.
A surveillance operation by gardaí and the divisional drugs unit was in place and Ferguson's movements were tracked throughout his journey from Limerick to Northern Ireland and he was also caught on CCTV footage hiring the van and insuring it.
Before returning to Limerick, Ferguson, tore the Hire-A-Van stickers off the rental vehicle and threw them in the bin.
The stickers were later recovered by members of the PSNI in a follow-up operation.
When he arrived back in Limerick Ferguson met Nevin who was in a Mazda car near Ahane National School.
They swapped vehicles and Nevin drove the van to Lisnagry and moved the boxes from the van into a small cottage in Ahane, which he was renting under the alias 'Tony Brown'.
Both men were intercepted and on searching the cottage with a warrant, gardaí found the boxes which contained the drugs.
Defence counsel for Nevin, Anthony Sammon (SC), said his client, a separated father, had got involved in the operation to clear a €3,400 gambling debt.
Shane Ferguson told gardaí that got involved as a favour for a friend to whom he owed money but gardaí did not accept this.
Before imposing sentence Judge Carroll Moran said that both men had no trappings of wealth usually associated with the drugs lifestyle.
He accepted they were not the owners of the drugs but were acting as couriers or "mules".
Judge Moran said it was a "sophisticated operation" and an important seizure for gardai in the disruption of this kind of operation given the large scale of the find.