A haulage firm owner who organised the movement of drugs and cash between Europe, Ireland and the UK has pleaded guilty to drugs and moneylaundering charges at Liverpool Crown Court today. 

Irishman Thomas Maher, 39, was involved in smuggling one and a half million euro worth of cocaine into Ireland and moving almost one million euro out of the country.

He was caught as part of a joint operation between An Garda Síochána and the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) during which officers accessed his encrypted phone messages.

To all intents and purposes, Thomas Maher - a native of Clara in Co Offaly - operated a haulage company in the north of England 

However, in reality he was the logistics man for organised crime groups who used his business and contacts to facilitate drug trafficking from Europe to Ireland and the UK.

He also moved the cash in the other direction to pay for drugs after taking a cut himself 

On 2 April last, Maher organised the collection of 11 kilos of cocaine at a garage in Lierop in the Netherlands which were then smuggled through Dunkirk in France, Dover in England before arriving two days later in Donabate, Dublin. 

In another job, Maher arranged for 10 kilos of cocaine to be collected near De Strubben, also in the Netherlands, and again delivered to the outskirts of Dublin. 

He also moved the cash the other way, transferring €305,000 from Ireland to the Netherlands, on which he charged commission. 

Maher, a father-of-three, also arranged for another €600,000 to be moved but it was seized by gardaí in May.  

He was caught after the encrypted messaging platform EncroChat was compromised by European law enforcement officers in June.

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Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll, head of the Garda Organised and Special Crime Bureau, said today that gardaí and the NCA have developed  a very productive working relationship and their combined investigative powers are preventing those involved in organised and serious crime from exploiting international borders. 

Maher, who lived in Wiltshire Close, Warrington, England, will be sentenced on 1 December.

Remanding him into custody, Judge Brian Cummings told the defendant: "Plainly on the face of it, you are facing a substantial custodial sentence, but the exact nature and extent of the sentence will be decided on the next occasion on 1 December."