Anton McNulty and Ann Healy
Three men appeared before Galway District Court yesterday morning (Monday) in connection with the seizure of an estimated €300,000 worth of cannabis near Swinford at the weekend.
Members of the Mayo Divisional Drugs Unit made one of the biggest drug discoveries in recent years when they raided two rented houses located within 50 metres of each other in the townland of Drumagh, Killasser, near Swinford on Saturday evening.
Three Lithuanian nationals were arrested and brought to Ballina Garda Station for questioning before they were charged and brought before Galway District Court yesterday (Monday) morning.
Garda Seán Ryan of the Mayo Divisional Drugs Unit gave evidence of arresting Viktorus Vinciunas (23) and Ricardas Poskus (27) at Ballina Garda Station on Sunday evening and of charging them with the cultivation of cannabis plants without a license at Killasser, Swinford, on Saturday, January 5.
Garda Kieran Naughton gave evidence of arresting co-accused Dmitrij Bobrov on Sunday evening also, and of charging him with the same offense. Vinciunas replied ‘okay’ when charged while the other two men made no reply.
Both Gardaí applied to have the three accused remanded in custody to appear before Harristown District Court in Castlerea this Friday, January 11.
Solicitor, Mr Mark Loftus said his clients were consenting to the Garda application.
Judge Mary Fahy remanded the trio in custody by consent to appear before Harristown District Court for DPP’s directions.
The Mayo Divisional Drugs Unit had the two rented houses under surveillance for some time before they decided to search the house at approximately 6pm last Saturday.
On entering the two houses, gardaí discovered cannabis plants at various stages of growth, along with bags of harvested cannabis herb.
A senior garda told The Mayo News that while the figure for the drug haul was initially given as €300,000, the final calculation may bring the total value closer to €500,000. While it represents the biggest seizure of illegal drugs in Mayo for a number of years, gardaí say that grow houses like those searched in Swinford over the weekend are common in rural Ireland.
“They are all over the country, and the way they operate is they [criminal gangs] usually rent the houses or sometimes buy them. A well-managed grow house could make a quarter of a million euro profit for only six months’ work,” the garda source explained.
“People from eastern Europe have been involved in this type of criminal activity, but we have also found that people from Asia have also been involved in these grow-house type operations.”
Last July, a member of a Lithuanian gang appeared in court after he was found in possession of €72,000 worth of cannabis plants after gardaí raided a grow-house in Islandeady in 2017. The court heard that Edgaras Stalgys was a member of a Lithuanian gang involved in the cultivation of cannabis plants in at least six Irish grow houses.
Gardaí confirmed that while they work with other drug units around the country in targeting criminal gangs, the search over the weekend was solely a Mayo-based operation.