Filipino man faces new charge...


Filipino man faces new charge over biggest drug seizure in the history of the State

Kellie Murphy
Kellie Murphy

08:54 16 Apr 2024

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A 30 year old Filipino man who previously appeared in court charged in connection with the biggest drug seizure in the history of the State is facing a new charge.

2.2 tonnes of cocaine, with a street value of €157 million, was seized aboard a freighter off east Cork in the early hours of September 26th, 2023. Eight people have been charged in connection with the seizure.

Harold Estoesta was a crew member aboard the MV Matthew when it was detained on that date in a Joint Task Force Operation involving Customs, Gardaí and the Navy.

Yesterday at a sitting of Mallow District Court in Co Cork Mr Estoesta faced a new charge that on September 4, 2023, with knowledge of a criminal organisation’s existence, he participated in or contributed to activity intending to […] facilitate a serious offence by that criminal organisation or its members.

The alleged offence is contrary to Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

The court heard evidence from Det Garda Redmond O’Leary who said that Estoesta replied “nothing, no comment” when the new charge was put to under  caution this morning.

Defence solicitor, Aiden Desmond, said that the book of evidence had yet to be served on his client even though his he was first charged in connection with the seizure over six months ago.

Inspector Tony O’Sullivan told Judge Colm Roberts  that he had been informed by the State that the book of evidence in the case should be available on May 7th next.

Judge Roberts granted the State an extension for making the book of evidence available. He indicated that he had previously expressed concern about delays in the serving of same.

However, he stressed that the delay “in the biggest drug trial in the country” arose because of the “complexity of the case.”

“The reality of the situation is that because of the nature of the offence, it is requiring a lot of An Garda Síochána and other experts to be involved, which regretfully takes an awful lot of time.”

Mr Desmond said that he would also need a considerable amount of time  to work on the case once he was in receipt of the book of evidence.

Judge Roberts said “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

“If the State took more time it’s likely the Defence will be given more time. Iappreciate the situation, I do share your client’s frustration, it is important that things move forward as quickly as possible. But it is a complex case.”

Mr Estoesta was remanded in custody to appear again tomorrow (Tuesday) via videolink in Mallow District Court, on the new charge.

He will also re appear before the court on May 7th next in relation to his previous charge in the case.

Mr Estoesta, who required the assistance of a translator in court, was previously charged with possession of cocaine for sale or supply with a value in excess of €13,000 in Irish waters and for possession of cocaine for sale or supply with a value in excess of €13,000 outside of Irish territorial waters.

He was also charged with conspiracy to have in his possession, on September 24, cocaine for sale or supply in excess of €13,000 in contravention of Sections 5 and 15a of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977.

The persons charged in relation with the seizure include Dutch, Iranian and Ukrainian nationals.

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