All but two crew members of the m/v VERILA returned to Bulgaria, Maritime.bg learned. The 32-year-old second engineer of the bulker Nikola Penchev and the 35-year-old AB Kamen Petkov were heard online at a court hearing held today in the Irish city of Limerick.
The two will remain in prison for New Year’s Eve, and the next hearing in the case is scheduled for January 9, the regional edition “Limerick Leader” reported.
Denis Waters, prosecutor, said that the instructions of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions are expected regarding the two men. A Bulgarian translator was present in court to assist the defendants.
John Herbert, Penchev’s lawyer, asked that the case be adjourned until January 9 via video link. Tom Kiely, Petkov’s lawyer, also asked that his client appear via video link in the district court in Limerick on January 9. Judge Cullinan left Penchev and Petkov in custody until that date and noted that the prosecution’s instructions are pending.
Both defendants said “thank you” at the end of the short procedural hearing.
The remaining crew members were released and their replacement was carried out. The men are already in Bulgaria, Maritime.bg learned.
On December 19, the Irish Revenue and Customs Service, along with the country’s National Police, discovered 300 kg of cocaine on board the ship. The drugs were found in waterproof bags with buoyancy provided by life jackets. GPS transmitters were also found in the bags, which, according to the authorities in the country, means that they were planned to be thrown overboard.
Bulker VERILA arrived at a terminal at Foynes Port, Limerick, after a passage from Canada. Prior to that, the vessel had visited terminals in Brazil. Initially, Irish authorities detained six people from the crew of the Malta-flagged bulker.
Later, due to a lack of evidence collected during the proceedings, four crew members were released. Two crew members were charged with the drugs.
If convicted, Penchev and Petkov could face a prison sentence.
The Irish authorities are continuing their investigation.
Days before the discovery of the cocaine on VERILA, Irish authorities seized 12.5 kg of the drug in a truck that arrived by ferry from France.
Earlier this year the Irish National Police announced the seizure of the largest shipment of cocaine at sea. It was discovered onboard the Marshall Islands-flagged bulker MATTHEW (IMO: 9228150). The ship’s captain was detained after refusing a boarding inspection and after warning shots were fired.