A music promoter from Kilkenny who was caught at George Best Belfast City Airport trying to smuggle in 10 kilos of high-quality cocaine from Peru has been jailed.
Shane Delaney, a father of one from Delouthry, was stopped on May 22 after a Border Force officer noticed his suitcase had come from South America via Madrid and Heathrow.
When the suitcase was opened, it was found to contain 15 packaged polo shirts which had been wrapped around a suspected drug. When the white substance was tested, it was found to be cocaine with a purity of between 64% and 89%.
At Belfast Crown Court, both the prosecution and defence argued about his role in the operation. Whilst the Crown submitted he was a signficant player, the defence said his role was nothing higher than that of a drugs mule.
They also had differing opinions about the potential street value of the drugs, which the court heard was between an estimated £300,000 – or as the PSNI stated, up to £3m.
After his arrest Delaney made the case that he was asked to transport the cocaine to pay off a drugs debts as his life was under threat.
He claimed that to pay off the debt, he was told to go to Lima and bring back drugs – but refused to answer questions about who asked him to make the trip, if the drugs were destined for Northern Ireland or the Republic and who paid for the drugs.
Defence barrister Greg Berry QC argued that Delaney’s role in the enterprise was that of a drugs mule. Telling the court his client was “no Pablo Escobar”, Mr Berry branded the attempt to smuggle drugs into the country as “amateurish”.
Pointing out that Delaney’s suitcase travelled through airports in Peru, Madrid and Heathrow before being stopped in Belfast, Mr Berry said: “This was unsophisticated in the extreme. This is not a speedboat coming to the coast of Ireland and bringing drugs to some secluded harbour.
“Given the amount of airports he came through, frankly it’s amazing he got as far as he did.”
However, handing Delaney a seven-year sentence, Her Honour Judge McCaffrey said it was her view he was neither a significant player nor a drugs mule, but rather a “trusted lieutenant”.
Handing the 30-year old a seven-year sentence, she told Delaney he would serve half his sentence in prison, with the remaining three and a half years on supervised licence upon his release.