Armed cops guard Irish court as four ‘gang members’ including Iranian and two Ukrainians appear over £140m cocaine haul a week after commandos swarmed cargo ship in dramatic raid

Four men have appeared in court charged in relation to Ireland’s largest ever drugs haul, accused of trying to smuggle £140m worth of cocaine on a cargo ship.

Saeid Hassani, a 37-year-old Iranian national; Mykhalio Gavryk, a 30-year-old Ukrainian national; Vitaliy Vlasoi, a 31-year-old Ukrainian national; and Cumali Ozgen, a 48-year-old with an address in the Netherlands, appeared before judge Colm Roberts as armed guards were stationed outside Mallow District Court this morning.

The four have been charged with possession of drugs for the purpose of supplying it within the Irish State. Eight have now been arrested following a dramatic helicopter raid on the MV Matthew by Irish special forces on a cartel in Ireland last Tuesday.

All four men were remanded in custody and are due to appear in court again on October 10 via video link. 

A staggering 2,253kg of cocaine was found on the cargo ship after members of the Irish Army Ranger Wing captured the vessel off the coast by abseiling from a helicopter.

Police believe the cocaine, seized from a ‘murderous cartel’ based in Columbia, was destined for distribution beyond Ireland, potentially into the UK and continental Europe.

Vitaliy Vlasoi and Saeid Hassani (right) arrive at Mallow District Court in Co Cork on October 3

Vitaliy Vlasoi arriving at Mallow District Court in Co Cork where he and three others were charged in relation to Ireland’s largest ever drugs haul

Mykhalio Gavryk (detained, centre) was one of four appearing to face charges today at Mallow District Court in relation to the drugs bust 

Cumali Ozgen covers his face while arriving at Mallow District Court earlier today. Ozgen made no reply when charged and cautioned

Armed Garda stand guard at the Mallow District Court where four today appeared in connection with an investigation into Ireland’s largest ever drugs seizure

At today’s court hearing, Detective Garda David Moran said that Gavryk was charged on October 2 and made no reply when cautioned.

Detective Garda Martin Donovan said that Ozgen, who required a Dutch translator, made no reply when he was charged and cautioned.

Det Garda Val Russell told the court that Vlasoi was charged and cautioned on October 2 at 8.43pm.

The court heard that Vlasoi replied: ‘I saw straight or direct evidence of the connection between the captain and another vessel, or with somebody else who he contacted. 

‘It was shown as straight evidence, I didn’t see straight evidence against myself.’

Detective Garda Lorraine Brennan said Hassani, for whom proceedings were translated through Farsi, was arrested on October 2 and made no reply to the charge.

The men did not speak except to confirm what type of translators they would need.

Gavryk, Ozgen, Vlasoi and Hassani were arrested after members of the Irish Army Ranger Wing retrieved 2,253kg of cocaine on the MV Matthew cargo ship on September 26. 

Cops believe the ship was being used by Narco criminals to smuggle the drugs in to Ireland and on to other European countries. 

The major multi-agency operation followed an alert after a separate boat ran aground in St George’s Channel, also suspected of being involved in the smuggling racket.

Video footage showed the moment armed forces stormed the cargo ship by helicopter.

Members of the highly trained Army Ranger Wing descended by fast-rope from a helicopter onto the MV Matthew, successfully securing the vessel. 

Investigators from the Bureau believe the Panama-owned MV Matthew was the ‘mother ship’ used by South American gangsters to transport cocaine to Ireland.

Once off the coast in the Atlantic, the vessel would distribute the drugs to smaller boats which would then ship them to other European countries, officials believe.

A fishing trawler that grounded off the coast of Co Wexford days before the seizure was also being monitored as part of the operation, amid suspicions it was en route to rendezvous with the cargo ship. 

The head of the Irish Defence Forces said the Army and Gardai had been working together for weeks to bring down the smuggling gang, leading to the MV Matthew being stormed by the Army Ranger Wing and detained.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the drugs would have ‘no doubt been destined for Irish and European markets’ and this ‘will represent a blow to the organised-crime gangs involved in drug distribution internationally’. 

Armed guards stand outside the Mallow District Court today in County Cork, Ireland

Armed support were on standby as four men were taken to the Mallow District Court today

Military personnel onboard a cargo vessel named MV Matthew whilst it’s escorted into Cobh in Cork by the Irish Navy after a ‘significant quantity’ of suspected drugs were found onboard

The co-ordinated operation, involving the Irish navy, Army Ranger Wing, Revenue and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, resulted in the ‘detention of a Panamanian-registered bulk cargo vessel originating in South America’

Members of the highly trained Army Ranger Wing descended by fast-rope from a helicopter on to the MV Matthew (pictured) in the early hours of Tuesday 26 September, after the vessel became the focus point of a multi-agency operation which began on Sunday 

Investigators from the Bureau believe the Panama-owned MV Matthew was the ‘mother ship’ used by South American gangsters to transport cocaine to Ireland. Pictured: military personnel about the MV Matthew 

A cargo vessel named MV Matthew is escorted into Cobh in Cork by the Irish Navy after more than 2000kg was found onboard

The vast cargo ship brought to Cork’s Cobh Harbour was last Tuesday night for an inspection. 

Crowds of people lined the walls of the harbour as the vessel was transported to a naval base in Haulbowline, County Cork. 

Armed members of the Ranger Wing were seen on board alongside ship crew members and other Defence Forces personnel. The agencies said a ‘significant quantity’ of suspected drugs were found on board the cargo ship. 

Officers are understood to be working with Interpol and Europol to establish if any of the crew have links to known organised crime groups. 

Three men have already appeared at courts in Wexford and Waterford in relation to the major seizure.

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