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Two men appear in court in connection with €160m cocaine seizure

Two men have appeared in an Irish court after being charged in connection with the seizure of almost €160m of cocaine on a bulk cargo ship off the coast of Ireland.

Jamie Harbron, aged 31, of South Avenue, Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees, UK, and 60-year-old Ukrainian national Vitaliy Lapa, of no fixed abode, were charged with conspiracy to import drugs.

Armed police units were involved in the convoy transporting the men to Waterford District Court.

Detective Garda James Doolan told the court he arrested Mr Lapa at 11.26pm on Thursday and that he made no reply to the charge after caution.

There was no application for bail.

His lawyer, Maria Murphy put in applications for a psychological assessment and legal aid.

She also requested that he receive all necessary medical treatment while in custody.

There were no objections and the requests were granted.

Detective Garda Ciara McNulty of the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau said she arrested Mr Harbron at 11.10pm on Thursday and he made no reply to the charge after caution.

There was no application for bail and no medical attention was required.

A request for legal aid made by his solicitor Lana Doherty was granted.

They were remanded in custody to appear at Wexford District Court via videolink on Monday.

A total of 2,253kg of cocaine was found on the MV Matthew after members of the Army Ranger Wing captured the vessel off the Co Cork coast by abseiling from a helicopter earlier this week.

The ship had been under surveillance since Friday when a multi-agency operation responded to intelligence of a major international drug smuggling bid.

Irish police have said the seizure was the largest in the history of the state.

Police believe the cocaine, captured onboard the cargo ship after the dramatic military operation at sea, was destined for distribution beyond Ireland, potentially into the UK and continental Europe.

A fishing trawler that grounded off the coast of Co Wexford late on Sunday was also being monitored as part of the operation, amid suspicions it was en route to rendezvous with the cargo ship.

The vessel remains stuck on a sandbank out at sea, with poor conditions preventing the authorities from boarding and searching it.

Five other men have been arrested as part of the operation.