JAILED Nine years for disabled Irish trucker caught importing Class A drugs into UK
Heroin, cocaine and MDMA found under fake floor to 'pay off son's debt'
This is the disabled Irish truck driver who has been jailed for nine years for importing more than €8.5m of drugs into the UK from the Netherlands.
John Mullen (67), from Kilmalady, Clara, Co Offaly, was arrested after trying to smuggle the massive haul of Class A drugs into Harwich International port in February.
The Sunday World can reveal that Mullen was already well-known to authorities in Ireland and the UK after being caught with a €700,000 cannabis haul in Offaly in 2009 before going on the run to the UK where he spent eight years living under a false identity.
He was finally tracked down to Wales in 2017 and extradited back to Ireland before being sentenced to 10 years, with eight-and-a-half suspended, for the 2009 cannabis haul.
Mullen told UK authorities that the Irish cannabis seizure left his son in massive debt with a crime gang and he agreed to smuggle the drugs into the UK to pay back what he owed to the gang.
Due to his previous dealings with authorities, he took a massive gamble trying to smuggle the multi-million cocaine, MDMA and heroin haul into Harwich in February.
Border Force officers used an X-ray machine to locate a false floor in his truck.
Sasha Bailey, prosecuting, this week told Chelmsford Crown Court: "The scan indicated the presence of a number of taped, wrapped packages.
"Mr Mullen was asked a series of questions about whether he had brought illegal substances into the country, or tobacco or arms, and he answered 'no'."
However, when officers took out the false floor they found 73kg of cocaine, with a street value of €6.37m, 51kg of MDMA, with a street value of €2.2, and 2.5kg of heroin with a wholesale value of €49,400.
The court heard that Mullen told officers he had been "threatened" into carrying out the smuggling operation to repay the debt owed by his son linked to the Irish seizure in 2009.
Miss Bailey said: "He said he had been threatened, he didn't know what he was transporting but he did assume it was drugs.
"He was aware of the concealment in the vehicle; he knew it wasn't going to be firearms because the concealment area was too small."
Border Force agents also found €1,000 in cash wrapped in tinfoil in Mullen's truck.
His defence lawyer Emma Nash claimed Mullen did not stand to make any financial gain from the smuggling operation and said he made a full and frank admission.
She said he suffered from ill health while in custody, including contracting coronavirus, an issue with his hips and suspected prostate cancer.
"He was due to have a hip replacement before his incarceration," she said.
"This has been exacerbated by the prison context in that the floors are wet and slippery.
"He has to be extremely careful as he is walking on crutches and sleeping on a bed with a thin mattress and no pillow.
"Prison isn't meant to be easy and nor should it be, but for Mr Mullen, with his particular health difficulties, it is even more difficult than it would otherwise be."
Judge Christopher Morgan described the amount of drugs seized as "commercial, if not industrial" in quantity.
He added: "The advantage to you was simply seeing, if it is right, the debt owed by your son paid off, whether that would materialise I simply can't say."
He sentenced him to nine years in prison.
Mullen was caught with a €700,000 cannabis haul in Offaly on December 1, 2009.
Officers searched a shed at the back of his house and found 50kg of cannabis resin and 20kg of herbal cannabis.
Gardai were targeting a gang responsible for the sale and distribution of cannabis and cocaine in Carlow, Offaly and Kildare with links to other larger traffickers.
Mullen was arrested at the scene but subsequently went on the run and managed to evade detection for eight years before he was tracked down to the small village of Carreglefn in Anglesey, Wales where he was living under a false identity in January 2017.
He was sentenced to 10 years but the judge suspended eight-and-a-half years of the sentence and Mullen was released from prison here in 2018.
Mullen moved from his native Tyrone to Offaly decades ago and was previously involved in bringing in crashed cars from the UK to Ireland to repair and sell on. He was also involved in a machinery business which closed down years ago.
He set up an export company based in Offaly shortly after his release from prison in 2018.
The UK National Crime Agency, which was involved in investigating Mullen, welcomed his conviction this week.
Jacque Beer, branch commander, said: "Through working with partners we were able to secure this conviction and stop a considerable amount of drugs from reaching the streets of the UK.
"Class A drugs are always linked to serious and organised crime, with their supply reliant on exploitation, violence and intimidation.
"Targeting those criminals who facilitate the drugs trade is a priority for the NCA and we will stop at nothing to disrupt them."