By Brion Hoban
A man who acted as an “errand boy” in the transportation of almost €400,000 of cannabis has been jailed for three years.
Ank Vu (20) told gardaí he was paid to put bags of cannabis into a suitcase he then handed over to another individual, but was unaware what was contained inside them.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Vu came to Ireland under the promise of securing employment, but this did not come to pass in part due to pandemic conditions.
Vu of Bow Bridge House, Bow Lane, Kilmainham pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis for sale or supply at his address on September 24, 2020. He has no previous convictions.
Passing sentence today, Judge Melanie Greally said it seems Vu was “essentially acting as an errand boy for persons much further up the chain” and did not have any financial interest in the drugs seized.
Judge Greally said his role was as “a courier in a very limited capacity”.
She noted his family and girlfriend are in Vietnam and that serving a prison sentence away from them is “a more difficult experience than might ordinarily be”.
She said this appears to have been “a very exceptional lapse in judgement” on his part during the course of what were “undoubtedly particularly difficult and exceptional circumstances”.
Judge Greally sentenced Vu to four-and-a-half years imprisonment, but suspended the final 18 months of the sentence on strict conditions.
She backdated the sentence to the date he first went into custody on October 15, 2020.
During the sentencing hearing, Detective Garda Anthony Gilleran told Antonia Boyle BL, prosecuting, that on the date in question, a surveillance operation was in place regarding a particular car following a separate incident in August 2020.
Det Gda Gilleran said gardaí became aware that the man who had been driving this particular car was observed driving a white van to Bow Bridge Apartments in Dublin City centre along with another man.
Gardaí observed two large suitcases and a bag being loaded into the van which then drove away.
After the van was later stopped by gardaí, these were found to contain cannabis.
The total value of the cannabis seized was €399,480.
CCTV footage obtained by gardaí showed Vu leaving the main door of the apartment building with two suitcases and a bag before handing them over to a person who then brought them to the van.
Earlier footage showed him carrying refuse sacks into the apartments.
In interview with gardaí following his arrest, Vu said he was asked to do a job by bringing bags into his apartment and putting them in a suitcase before bringing them downstairs again.
Vu told gardaí said he did not know what was in them and assumed it was clothes, a pillow cover and a blanket as the bags were light.
He apologised and said that he felt suspicious, but he did not ask questions because he got paid for doing it.
Det Gda Gilleran agreed with Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, defending, that her client is from Vietnam with experience as a chef who spent a “vast” amount of money to come to Ireland under promise of employment.
The detective agreed with counsel that her client was either misled or misunderstood what opportunities there were for him here, then Covid hit and the accused found himself in “desperate circumstances”.
He agreed that but for those “desperate circumstances” there was no reason to think the accused would ever have sought out this hype of offending.
He agreed it was unlikely the accused would come before the court again.
Ms Lawlor said her client has an “utterly unblemished character” who entered a guilty plea at the very earliest stage. She said her client has been in custody for a period of time.
Counsel asked the court to extend “a degree of compassion and leniency” by allowing her client to be in custody for the least amount of time that properly reflects the gravity of the crime.