Caught with €1.7 million of cocaine due to untaxed van

by Gazette Reporter
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By Jessica Magee

An electrician who went out to buy nappies in an untaxed van containing €1.7million worth of cocaine has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison.

Gardaí stopped the van being driven by Karl Lawlor (40) and noticed a strong smell of cannabis and that Lawlor’s septum was visible, indicating a severe cocaine addiction.

They searched the van and found packages in clear sight in the back containing just under 25 kilos of cocaine valued at €1.74 million.

At a hearing at Dublin Circuit Court last week, the court heard that gardaí said to Lawlor on arrest: “You’re not a master drug dealer, are you?”

He replied: “Not driving around in a van with no tax, I’m not.”

Lawlor pleaded guilty to possessing the drugs on St Cuthbert’s Road, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 on April 15, 2022.

The father-of-three with an address at Dixon Villas, Adelaide Road, Glasthule, further admitted possessing €220 worth of cannabis on the same occasion, which he said was for his own use.

Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Lawlor to five and a half years in prison, noting that he was a mature man and had involved himself in this offence by reason of his substance abuse and longstanding addiction.

The judge took into account mitigating factors including Lawlor’s lack of previous convictions, his long and strong work record, his guilty plea, his cooperation and remorse and the fact that he was unlikely to reoffend.

“If you’re going to carry a lot of drugs, you should have tax on the car at least,” remarked Judge Nolan.

Detective Garda Mark Walsh told John P Gallagher BL, prosecuting, that he was on mobile patrol on the day in question when he noticed a Renault van leaving a housing estate in Clondalkin.

A quick registration check showed no tax, so gardaí stopped the vehicle and noticed that the driver seemed nervous and smelled of cannabis.

A search revealed a small quantity of cannabis resin in the glove compartment, and Lawlor also handed over a bit of cannabis from the driver’s side door.

Gardaí opened the rear of the van which contained the usual electrician’s tools of the trade and noticed black bales which, when opened, revealed bars of suspected cocaine wrapped in plastic.

Lawlor told gardaí he had a drug debt of €7,000 and had been put under pressure to hold drugs.

“I’m a junkie bastard and I can’t get seven grand so I got it off someone else. They said they would go to my Mam’s house,” he said.

On arrest, Lawlor told gardaí he had an arrangement by phone whereby he would go to a designated pick-up spot just off the M50 past Finglas to collect drugs.

He had been carrying €1.7 million worth of cocaine in his van since the previous week as he did not believe he could store it safely in the family home.

On the day in question, he had left the house to go and buy nappies, the court heard.

Gda Walsh agreed with Seamus Clarke SC, defending, that Lawlor’s septum had been eroded and was visible, making it evident that he was severely addicted to cocaine.

Lawlor initially used cocaine recreationally, but his use escalated after the death of his father some seven years previously, to the point where he was spending €500 to €1,000 a week on drugs.

Mr Clarke presented testimonials from drug treatment services to show that Lawlor has since managed to come clean of drugs.

Further letters were submitted from Lawlor’s former employer of 12 years who described him as a very good, dependable and trustworthy employee.

Letters were also handed in from Lawlor’s partner, mother and other relatives describing him as a very kind, committed, caring and generous family man.

“He has been proactive in leading a good social and working life,” counsel said, adding that Lawlor had agreed to courier drugs because he was under duress and had experienced a “degree of threat”.

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