Man caught storing over €1.3m of cocaine jailed for eight years

The son of a retired garda has been jailed for eight years after he was caught storing over €1.3 million worth of cocaine in a rented storage unit.

Graeme Burke (34), described by his barrister as a “sitting duck”, had rented the storage unit in his own name using his personal documentation to secure the lease.

Detective Garda Redmond O'Leary told Judge Martin Nolan that while gardaí accepted that Burke did not own the drugs and was holding them for some form of reward, “he was not at the lowest level” of the operation.

Two phones founds on Burke were discovered on technical examination to be encrypted devices.

Gda O'Leary said such mobile phones operate on their own network and are very costly to run. He said gardaí cannot access the information stored on them and they are used by organised crime gangs.

Michael O'Higgins SC, defending, accepted that his client could not be portrayed “as some gullible person who was induced into this” but asked Judge Nolan to accept that it was not a sophisticated crime in that the unit was rented in his own name.

“He was a sitting duck, to be differentiated from others higher up the ladder who had insulated themselves,” Mr O'Higgins said before he added that his client had “faced his responsibilities head on” by admitting his guilt.

Burke of Woodlands, Ratoath, Co Meath pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of 19 Kg of the drug, worth an estimated €1.336 million at a storage facility on the N2 in Ashbourne, on January 30, 2020. He has three previous convictions including one for robbery for which he received a four year suspended sentence in August 27, 2005.

Det Gda Burke told John Byrne BL, prosecuting, that both the unit and Burke's van were under surveillance following a tip off to the gardaí. Burke was spotted leaving his home address, driving to the storage unit, staying there for ten minutes and driving off again.

He was followed and approached by gardaí after parking up in an area in Tallaght, Dublin. Burke immediately confirmed there were drugs in the van and the keys to the storage unit were found on him.

Gda O'Leary said there was seven kilogrammes of cocaine in Burke's van and a further 12 kilogrammes were later found in the storage unit, along with other drug paraphernalia including a money counting machine.

Gda O'Leary agreed with Mr O'Higgins that the storage unit was rented in Burke's own name and his own personal documentation used to organised the lease of it.

He accepted that Burke's father is a retired member of An Garda Siochana and as such, his time in prison may be more difficult.

Mr O'Higgins said his client left school at a young age before training as a painter and decorator and later working as a taxi driver. He said the crime had had a devastating impact on Burke's family.

Judge Nolan accepted that Burke's involvement was “to store, transport and distribute the drugs” and noted that he had been equipped with the encrypted mobile phones.

“It is difficult to know what led him into this. He is a mature man and should have known better,” Judge Nolan commented before he jailed Burke for eight years.