We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

The haul of drugs as displayed by gardaí and Revenue last month.

Bail bid for co-accused delayed in ‘complex’ €32m crystal meth importation case

The court previously heard a container had been shipped from Mexico and stored in a garden centre before its discovery at a port.

THE “COMPLEX” HIGH Court bail application of a second Kerry man charged over the country’s largest-ever crystal meth seizure has been stalled for two weeks.

James Leen, 41, of Pilgrim Hill, Kilmourna, Listowel, faces two charges of drug importation at Cork Port, Ringaskiddy, on October 16, 2023, of methylamphetamine, known as crystal meth, and possession of the drug worth €13,000 or more at Ballyseedy Garden Centre between October 27, 2023, and February 12, 2024.

The District Court had heard Customs officers discovered 543kg of crystal meth, with an estimated value of €32.8million, when they inspected a container in the Port of Cork.

The court had heard this machine had been shipped from Mexico and stored in Ballyseedy Garden Centre since October.

He and co-accused businessman Nathan McDonnell were refused bail at their first District Court hearings in February but were entitled to bring fresh bids to the High Court in Cloverhill, Dublin.

Mr McDonnell’s application was refused on Tuesday, and Mr Leen’s attempt was due to be heard yesterday/today (Thur).

However, due to the volume of contested hearings on the court’s busy bail, Ms Justice Caroline Biggs granted an adjournment to suit garda witness availability. She said Mr Leen’s application would be heard in two weeks.

His father and another relative had come to the court.

Defence barrister, Ronan Prendergast, told Ms Justice Biggs that he had been served with “detailed objections notes” from the State.

He suggested the matter could be dealt with sooner, and while Detective Sergeant Ernie Henderson of Tralee station had detailed knowledge of the case, another officer could take his place.

In reply, Theresa Lowe BL, for the State, said it was an “extremely complex case” requiring a date when Detective Sergeant Henderson was available. She added that he was the only person who could deal “with the complex issues.”

Ms Justice Biggs noted that the State is opposing the application, which will now go ahead on April 12.

Co-accused Nathan McDonnell, 44, a former company director who previously ran the Ballyseedy Garden Centre, has been charged with possession of drugs worth more than €13,000 for sale or supply at the garden centre between October 27 and February 12.

On Tuesday, Ms Justice Karen O’Connor said she noted defence submissions and that Nathan McDonnell’s father had offered to stand bail for his son with €100,000 from his life savings.

Ms Justice O’Connor had said the accused had the presumption of innocence but held that the surety amount offered was not sufficient and no conditions would allay the Garda concerns.

The detective sergeant also objected to Mr McDonnell’s bail because of the seriousness of the case and flight risk concerns.