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Inner working of eastern European gang revealed as man jailed for Co Laois €2.42m drugs bust

Ugnius Sakalis was given a five-year sentence backdated to the date of his arrest.

The drug seized in August last year at a Laois warehouse. Photo: Garda Press

Eamon Dillon

AN Eastern European organised crime gang smuggled millions of euro worth of cannabis into Ireland hidden in pallets of vegetables, a court has heard.

The inner-workings of the crime gang were revealed by gardaí this week as a gang foot-soldier went on trial for his role in transporting the drugs.

Lithuanian national Ugnius Sakalis (26) had been paid €2,000 a month to work for the mob to pick up drug deliveries and collect cash.

But the hapless mechanic only managed to collect €1,000 before being caught red handed with €2.42 million worth of cannabis hidden in a consignment of chillis.

A haulage company called in the cops after one of their drivers had been re-directed to a rural warehouse in County Laois after collecting 26 pallets of veg from Dublin Port.

Detectives who arrived at the scene in August last year found a bare warehouse when Sakalis had just unloaded the truck, Portlaoise Circuit Court heard.

A search revealed the 121 kilos of the drug, wrapped in polythene, were hidden in the pallets of chillis which had been marked with a sticker.

After his arrest Sakalis told cops how he had been recruited by the ‘boss’ after advertising his mechanic skills on Facebook.

He met the gangster at a disused car-park in City West where other drug transits were also arranged, it was heard.

Gardaí said he told them he would be killed if he divulged information about the identity of the gang boss to them.

During the series of interviews it emerged he had carried out other drug runs and made one trip to Cork to collect a “significant” amount of cash.

He had been carrying out the criminal tasks for two months but had only been paid €1,000 because he owed the boss a €3,000 gambling debt.

He had been in contact with the gang leader every second day or so using the encrypted Telegram messaging service.

Judge Keenan Johnson said “the value of the drugs is huge” and the use of drugs caused huge problems.

He said it destroys lives, creates criminals as well as putting pressure on the health service and undermining the pillars of society.

Sakalis, who had no relevant previous convictions, was given a five-year sentence backdated to the date of his arrest.

He added he was satisfied Sakalis was not the main player who was benefitting from the drug transactions and praised the haulage company for alerting the gardaí.

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