Two Kerry men remanded in custody in connection with Ireland's largest ever crystal meth seizure

Feb 23, 2024 17:07 By radiokerrynews
Two Kerry men remanded in custody in connection with Ireland's largest ever crystal meth seizure
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Two Kerry men have been refused bail and remanded in custody, in connection with the largest ever seizure of crystal meth in Ireland.

The almost 550kg of drugs were seized by Customs Officers in Cork Port on February 15th, arising out of intelligence gathered from the Kerry Divisional Drugs Unit.

43-year-old Nathan McDonnell of Ballyroe, Tralee, and 41-year-old James Leen of Pilgrim Hill, Kilmorna, Listowel, both face at least one charge in relation to the seizure.


Both men appeared before a special sitting of Tralee District Court this afternoon in front of a significant garda presence, after which Judge David Waters remanded both men in custody.

Garda vans arrived at Tralee Courthouse as huge crowds gathered outside for the special sitting of the District Court, while jeering and shouting from outside could be heard as 43-year-old Nathan McDonnell arrived in the courtroom.


In front of a significant garda presence, Detective Sergeant Tommy Griffin of Listowel garda station gave evidence of arrest, charge, and caution.

Sgt Griffin said Mr McDonnell replied not guilty when he put the single charge he faces to him; this is possession of a controlled drug for sale or supply.

Sgt Griffin said further, serious charges, are being contemplated by the Director of Public Prosecutions.


Mr McDonnell’s solicitor, Pádraig O’Connell, applied for bail and this was objected by the state, on the grounds of the seriousness of the charges and the strength of evidence.

It’s alleged that Mr McDonnell had in his possession the almost 550kg of crystal meth, concealed inside a metal, electro-magnetic separator at Ballyseedy Garden Centre, between October and February.


It’s alleged that the machine, which was inside a container when it was seized, was purpose-built to conceal the drugs, and arrived here from Mexico.

Sgt Griffin said Mr McDonnell made admissions he was to be paid €150,000 to store the container during that time, and that he was to pay an innocent party in Australia €5,000 to receive the container.

Mr O’Connell said his client steadfastly denies any knowledge of or involvement with drugs.


The state also claimed Mr McDonnell has substantial means and would pose a flight risk.

Judge David Waters said he does not believe there are any conditions he could attach to bail to be able to grant it, and so refused Mr McDonnell bail.

Mr Leen entered court separately, and Detective Sergeant Dave Howard said he made no reply when the charges were put to him.

These are possession of a controlled drug for sale or supply, and the importation of the controlled drug, namely crystal meth.

Sergeant Howard alleged that Mr Leen is a senior logistics figure for a transnational, organised crime gang, and he is highly involved with the upper tiers of that organisation.

Sgt Howard claimed Mr Leen is a serious flight risk, and he undoubtedly could flee the jurisdiction to jurisdictions from which he could not be extradited.

His solicitor Pat Mann said a lot of the basis for the objection to bail was highly speculative and not backed up by anything other than the garda’s opinion.

Mr Mann said his client denies he has anything to do with this, to which Sgt Howard replied Mr Leen has made absolutely no comment on anything during garda interviews.

Judge Waters again said he could not conceive of any bail conditions that would realistically satisfy his concerns, and he refused Mr Leen bail.

Both men were remanded in custody to appear at Tralee District Court via video link next Wednesday, before they were taken away in prison vans to shouting, including some cheers and applause.

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