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Irish haulage boss jailed in UK over transportation of cocaine and cash across Europe

Thomas Maher was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court today after pleading guilty to four courts of conspiracy to commit a crime abroad.

A WEALTHY IRISH haulage boss who transported cocaine and cash across Europe has been jailed for 14 years and eight months in the UK.

Irishman Thomas Maher, aged 40, was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court today after he pleaded guilty to four counts of conspiracy to commit a crime abroad at an earlier hearing.

The court heard that between March and May he played a role in conspiracies to transport a total of about €1.6 million of cocaine from The Netherlands to Ireland, via the UK, and to launder about €1.1 million in cash between Ireland and the Netherlands.

The father-of-three, of Warrington, Cheshire, used encrypted phone network EncroChat – which was accessed by law enforcement agencies across Europe earlier this year – to plan the transportation, the court heard.

Drugs cause desperation and misery, they are a cancer in our midst, but for those like you it matters not as long as financial profit is being achieved.

Sentencing him, Judge David Aubrey QC said: “You were an extremely important cog in the wheel of a sophisticated network of distribution of class A controlled drugs which had an international element.

You were a trusted organiser, playing a part in where goods were to be exchanged, how parties would be able to identify each other when drugs were to be conveyed and how.

“Drugs cause desperation and misery, they are a cancer in our midst, but for those like you it matters not as long as financial profit is being achieved.”

The judge said Maher, owner of Thomas Maher Transport Ltd, provided “expertise” from owning a haulage business within the operation.

The prosecution’s case

Catherine Rabaiotti, prosecuting, said Maher was arrested at his home on 13 June, the same day EncroChat issued an alert telling users it had been compromised.

2.47861023 UK police outside the house of Thomas Maher in Warrington. Source: PA Images

Neither of the two EncroChat devices linked to him were recovered, the court heard.

Rabaiotti said messages showed him acting as a go-between and a “logistics manager”.

She said: “Passwords, times, details of stops and prices were passed through the defendant acting as a middle-man for the parties.”

Maher, who used the EncroChat handles Satirical and Snacker for his messages, was arrested in October last year after the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people found in a shipping container in Essex. He was not charged in connection with the deaths.

A spokesman for the National Crime Agency (NCA) said officers seized vehicles including a high-end Range Rover, Land Rover Discovery and an imported Corvette worth £70,000 following his arrest.

He spent thousands on holidays to Dubai, Mexico and New York and while in Dubai bought artwork including a map of the world made up of bullets, the spokesman said.

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The defence’s case

John Dye, defending, said Maher received between €3,000 and €5,000 for the plots he was charged with involvement in.

He said: “That’s a very small amount compared to the value of the overall conspiracy.”

Dye said Maher had pleaded guilty and not attempted to legally challenge the evidence from the EncroChat devices, adding: “He has been brave enough to put up his hands as quickly as possible and not mess the court around.”

A count of conspiracy to commit a crime abroad – that of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm to Ronan Hughes in Ireland between 21 and 29 April this year – was ordered to lie on the file after Maher pleaded not guilty.

Haulier Hughes, aged 40, from Co Armagh in Northern Ireland, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey in August to 39 counts of manslaughter following the deaths of the Vietnamese migrants.

NCA branch commander Martin Clarke said: “Maher moved in the highest criminal circles, acting as a logistics man for some of the UK, Ireland and Europe’s most notorious organised crime groups who trusted him with their drugs and money.

“We believe the offences he has been convicted of represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his overall criminality.

He bragged in EncroChat messages about being involved in organised crime for over 20 years, during which time it’s highly likely he shipped tonnes of drugs and tens of millions of pounds around Europe.

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