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Mr Clean pleads guilty to having coke worth €29m

A CRIMINAL mastermind nicknamed 'Mr Clean' has pleaded guilty to possession of €29m worth of cocaine.

Gareth 'Mr Clean' Hopkins (33) had the drug for sale or supply at Ballycoolin, West Dublin, and at Beech, Leixlip, Kildare on June 26, last year.

About 400kg of cocaine was seized during a joint operation by gardai and customs officers.

Highly educated Hopkins, with addresses at Carnlough Road, Cabra and Leixlip, was director of a recycling company, a diamond mining company in Sierra Leone and had interests in a Polish tobacco company, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court previously heard.

Gardai had claimed in the District Court that he was involved in the large-scale importing of cocaine from South America, which was shipped to Ireland hidden inside lengths of timber.

They also alleged Hopkins was responsible for the storage and distribution of the drug, as well as extracting the cocaine from the wood.

The dad-of-one is a Trinity College graduate who was busted after a major operation led by the Garda National Drugs Unit.

Hopkins is believed to have been used by the investors to organise and front the smuggling operation because he would not have been subject to regular surveillance.

However, sources say the Garda National Drugs Unit were aware of his identity for a number of months before they swooped last June.

Sources say 'Mr Clean' was in direct communication with drugs trafficker George 'The Penguin' Mitchell who has been based in Amsterdam since the Garda crackdown after the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin.

'The Penguin' is suspected of masterminding the massive cocaine seizure from his Dutch base.

Gardai also suspect Irish drugs godfather Christy Kinahan - under investigation in Spain - also invested in the seized shipment, which was due to be shared between gangs in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and the North.

The bust was part of Operation Agon - a year-long probe into drug trafficking by organised criminals.

The cocaine arrived into Dublin Port almost two weeks before gardai seized it and was being kept under surveillance at a west Dublin warehouse.

Investigations have established that the gang had a safe house in Tallaght.

At the time, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said the record seizure was a very significant day for law enforcement.

Commissioner Callinan also said his officers believe the crime group behind the operation is local with links to the international underworld.

He added the people involved will have lost a considerable amount in terms of their investment.

Yesterday Judge Mary Ellen Ring remanded Hopkins in custody for sentencing.