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Kerry businessman charged over meth seizure denied bail

A Kerry businessman charged over the country’s largest-ever crystal meth seizure has been denied bail in the High Court.

James Leen, 41, of Pilgrim Hill, Kilmourna, Listowel, faces two charges of drug importation at Cork Port, Ringaskiddy, on 16 October, 2023, of methylamphetamine, known as crystal meth, and possession of the drug worth €13,000 or more at Ballyseedy Garden Centre between 27 October, 2023, and 12 February, 2024.

Nathan McDonnell, 44, a former company director who previously ran the Ballyseedy Garden Centre, has also been charged with possession of drugs worth more than €13,000 for sale or supply at the garden centre between 27 October and 12 February.

The District Court had heard Customs officers discovered 543kg of crystal meth, with an estimated value of €32.8million, when they inspected a container in the Port of Cork.

The court had heard the container had been shipped from Mexico and stored in Ballyseedy Garden Centre since October.

Both men were refused bail at their first District Court hearings in February but were entitled to bring fresh applications to the High Court in Cloverhill, Dublin.

Mr McDonnell’s bail plea was heard last week by Ms Justice Karen O’Connor. She had said: “The allegations in this case are in respect of very serious offending.”

She also noted defence submissions and that Nathan McDonnell’s father, Michael McDonnell, told the court he would stand bail for his son and offered €100,000 from his life-savings as a surety.

Detective Sergeant Ernie Henderson of Tralee station confirmed to Theresa Lowe BL, for the State, that he was objecting to bail due to the seriousness of the case and he had flight risk concerns.

However, Ms Justice O’Connor had adjourned the case to consider the matter; she delivered her ruling today and denied the defendant’s bail application.

She said the accused had the presumption of innocence but said the surety amount offered was not sufficient and no conditions would allay the garda concerns.

Mr McDonnell watched the proceedings via video link from prison.

The proceedings have heard that the men may face additional charges, and the Director of Public Prosecutions’ directions were required. They will also face their next District Court appearance tomorrow.

Mr Leen’s High Court bail application is scheduled to proceed on Thursday.

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