NewsCrime Desk

Novice OAP drug dealer gets banged up

Crime DeskBy Eamon Dillon
Cornelius Van Gent
Cornelius Van Gent

He SHOULD be enjoying retirement, but instead, pensioner Cornelius Van Gent has been dubbed the ‘oldest swinger’ in The Joy.

He is settling in to a seven-year sentence for his attempts to go ‘Breaking Bad’ for the first time in his life.

The 73-year-old, in our exclusive picture, had racked up no other convictions, until he was caught in connection with €5million worth of cannabis herb and resin at the IKEA car park in Dublin last year.

Like a true novice, he stood out to undercover members of the Garda National Drugs Unit who had been tipped off to the consignment because he was wearing a large Stetson hat.

But the future is none too comical for Van Gent, who has an address in Rotterdam in the Netherlands and who a court heard has an elderly wife who is dependent on him.

He was sentenced last month to seven years in jail for his part in the plot to sell the herb and resin and is now the proud owner of the new identity – prisoner number 91682.

Van Gent was spotted by Gardai loading up two pallets of more than 72 kilo of cannabis into a van before driving into the IKEA car park last May.

Another 137 kilos of cannabis herb and 88 kilos of cannabis resin were later found in the warehouse where Van Gent had collected his first stash.

Van Gent, along with his co-accused Sean Mahony (39), of Dunamore
Crescent in Tallaght, and Peng Cheng (24), of The Netherlands, pleaded guilty to possession of the drugs for sale or supply.

The Court heard that Mahony acted as a courier in order to pay off a drug debt, Cheng was hoping to pay off a gambling debt and said he feared for the safety of his family and Van Gent had decided to do some work in Ireland on a whim after meeting Cheng.

The court accepted Van Gent was not at the upper echelons of what was described as an “unusually sophisticated system”.

With an address in the Netherlands, the pensioner was being watched when he arrived at IKEA on May 2 last year. Undercover drug squad officers kept them under surveillance as Van Gent, in his large Stetson hat, drove
Mahony’s van to a warehouse where it was loaded with pallets and then returned to IKEA where Mahony and Cheng were waiting.

Mahony left in the loaded van and was then stopped by gardaí who discovered almost €1.5million worth of cannabis in the back. Another €3.2million of the drugs were discovered back at the warehouse.

It is understood a criminal gang based between The Netherlands and Ireland shipped the goods in with legitimate goods, including boxes of Basmati rice.

During the case, Judge Martin Nolan accepted that Van Gent got involved out of “curiosity” and had been following the direction of Cheng, who he jailed for nine years.

His counsel, Shane Costelloe SC, defended him saying that he had “impulsively” decided to travel to Ireland after meeting Cheng in Amsterdam.

He insisted that he didn’t know that it was drugs he was transporting when he agreed to take some work here.