Man who solicited undercover Gardai to import cocaine loses appeal

Sunny Idah (41) lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence today
Sunny Idah (41) lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence today

A man who solicited two undercover gardai posing as Polish drug mules to import cocaine into Ireland has lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence.

Nigerian-born Sunny Idah (41), with addresses at Lipton Court, in Dublin City Centre and Gerard House, Brown Street in London, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to soliciting another person to unlawfully import cocaine on dates between September 14 and 19, 2010.

He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final 12 months suspended by Judge Catherine Murphy on December 5, 2014.

Dismissing an appeal against the severity of his sentence today, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said Idah engaged two undercover gardai posing as Polish drug mules to fly to Brazil and, once there, to eat or ingest one kilogram of cocaine pellets each worth a total of €140,000.

The would-be mules were to be paid €5,000 each, Mr Justice Mahon said, and were provided with airline tickets, details on where they should stay, instructions on how to ingest the pellets and funds.

The sentencing judge described the offence as "a very well planned and highly sophisticated crime."

Mr Justice Mahon said the Court of Appeal was satisfied to treat Idah as a central figure. His role was undoubtedly a critical and important one. “In no way could he be considered a mere functionary,” Mr Justice Mahon said.

The plan to import into the country €140k worth of cocaine with all the consequences that would follow - the ensuing damage to the health and livelihood of young people, the utter disregard to those whom he intended would ingest these drugs and keep them inside their bodies for a considerable period while they made their way to Ireland - all served to emphasise the seriousness and callousness of the offence, the judge said.

The risk to the health and possibly the lives of the would-be mules would have been very significant had it succeeded and “there have been many examples of people dying” through the ingestion of drugs, the judge said.

Having decided that the maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment was the correct sentence, the Circuit Court judge proceeded to discount that term by two years for Idah's guilty plea and a further two years for his lack of previous convictions, lack of violence and his good conduct in custody.

A further 12 months was suspended without identifying any particular reason, Mr Justice Mahon said.

The Court of Appeal was satisfied that the 10 year term with the final 12 months suspended fairly allowed for all the mitigating factors.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, said the sentence was appropriate and therefor the appeal was dismissed.

The court heard that Idah is currently on temporary release. He had successfully appealed his conviction in 2013 and the sentence imposed in 2014 was backdated to 2010 for time spent in custody.

Ruaidhrí Giblin