Monday 19 August 2019

Three men charged over €80m cocaine bust aboard yacht

John Powell, skipper of the yacht. Photo Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
John Powell, skipper of the yacht. Photo Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

THREE men have been charged with drugs trafficking following an €80m cocaine seizure by the Naval Service off the Irish coast.

John Powell (70), Benjamin Mellor (35) and Thomas Britteon (28) appeared before a special sitting of Cork District Court.

They appeared three days after the 28-year old yacht Makayabella was boarded by armed Naval Service personnel 250km off Mizen Head.

The yacht was detained by the LE Niamh supported by the LE Roisin.


Forty-one bales of cocaine believed to be worth at least €80m were seized as part of a joint garda, Customs and Excise and Naval Service operation.

The yacht was boarded following co-operation between Ireland and seven other jurisdictions via the Lisbon-based Maritime Analysis Operations Centre-Narcotics (MAOCN).

The Makayabella, which was chartered from a Grenadines-based boat hire firm, remains under detention at the basin in Haulbowline Naval Base in Cork Harbour.

The 60ft vessel is undergoing forensic analysis.

The three men appeared in court in Anglesea Street amid tight security at 8pm.

Evidence of arrest, caution and charge was given to Judge Olann Kelleher by Det Gda Fergus Twomey, Det Gda William Holmes and Det Gda Liam Brennan.

The court was told that all three defendants face a single charge on the instructions of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

They are charged with the possession of a controlled drug, namely cocaine, on board the yacht Makayabella on September 23, knowing or suspecting that it was for importation contrary to Section 5 (1-A) of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Mr Powell, of Airedale Mews, Silsden, West Yorkshire, replied when charged: "That is all clear."

Mr Britteon, of Convamore Road, Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, told gardai after being charged: "I am sorry for what I done."

Mr Mellor of Manningham, Moringtom Villas, Bradford, Yorkshire, made no reply to gardai when charged.

Judge Kelleher remanded all three in continuing custody to appear again before Cork District Court next Thursday.

He agreed to an application from the State that the appearance should be via video-link.

Free legal aid was granted to all three men on the application of their solicitors, Frank Buttimer (Mr Powell and Mr Mellor) and Shane Collins Daly (Mr Britteon).

Statements of means were submitted to the court on behalf of all three.

The court was told that there were no objections to the remands in custody or the three men making their next appearance before Cork District Court by video link.


All three remained silent during the 10-minute hearing.

They appeared in casual clothing including tracksuits, slacks and jumpers.

All three are British nationals.

The Makayabella is expected to remain at Haulbowline Naval Base for some time under tight security.

The bales of cocaine were transferred to Dublin under armed garda escort on Thursday.

Gardai said that it will be some time before the purity or origin of the cocaine can be determined.


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