A music promoter from Kilkenny who was detected at George Best Belfast City Airport trying to smuggle in ten kilos of high-quality cocaine from Peru has been jailed.
Shane Delaney, a father-of-one from Delouthry, was stopped 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 suspected drugs.
When the white substance was tested it was found to be cocaine, with a purity of between 64% and 89% - making the seizure in May one of the largest consignments of cocaine ever imported into Northern Ireland via an airport.
Prior to sentence being passed at Belfast Crown Court yesterday, both the prosecution and Delaney's defence team argued about his role in the operation. While the Crown submitted he was a significant 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 class A drug, which the court heard was between an estimated £300,000, or as the PSNI stated, up to £3m.
However, passing sentence Her Honour Judge McCaffrey said it was her view Delaney was neither a significant player, nor a drugs mule, but rather a "trusted lieutenant".
Handing the 30-year-old a seven-year sentence, the judge told Delaney he would serve half his sentence in prison with the remaining three-and-a-half years on supervised licence upon his release.
Before jailing Delaney Judge McCaffrey was told by prosecuting barrister Kate McKay that on May 22 Delaney was challenged by a Border Force officer at the airport after his flight arrived from Heathrow.
When the suitcase was opened Delaney was asked what was inside the plastic packages, to which he replied "cocaine".
He made the case that he was asked to transport the cocaine to pay off a drugs debts, as his life was under threat.
Delaney - described in court as both a drug addict and a drug dealer - made the same case from his arrest in May right up to sentencing, after he pleaded guilty to a single charge of importing a class A drug.