Angel dust find 'a bolt out of the blue'

Sat, Jul 23, 2011, 01:00

THE DISCOVERY of what is believed to be the illegal animal growth promoter angel dust on a farm in Co Monaghan has came like “a bolt out of the blue,” according to a senior source in the Department of Agriculture.

A small number of cattle that were on the farm when it was raided by gardaí and officers from the department’s special investigations unit have been tested for the banned substance.

It was once common to find angel dust being used by beef farmers and it cast a dark shadow over the industry for a number of years.

It was also suspected that the Provisional IRA used to manufacture and sell it.

However, the discovery of bottles of the substance on a farm in Monaghan on Thursday morning has sent a wave of concern through the agriculture industry.

Tests are routinely carried out at slaughtering yards for angel dust and other illegal growth substances, and the use of angel dust appeared to have ended; it is 12 years since it was last detected in the Republic.

“Angel dust was usually found in powder form but this discovery is what appears to be it in liquid form.

“There were two full bottles found first and then what appears to be an empty bottle of it. This has come like a bolt out of the blue to us,” said a source in the Department of Agriculture.

“This has shown us that the use of illegal growth promoters has not gone away and while the smarter lads are using cocktails of anabolic steroids that can be difficult to detect, angel dust is still there and still available,” the source added.

There are also concerns that if the substance is confirmed as angel dust, it may have been given to animals that have already been slaughtered and if that is the case the chances are they have already been eaten by unsuspecting members of the public.

Meanwhile, Customs sources confirmed that the service found almost €30,000 in cash and cheques linked to the discovery of the diesel-laundering plant found in the same location as the angel dust.

The Revenue Commissioners secured a court order to seize the money and in a follow-up operation Northern Ireland Customs and Excise officers raided a filling station in Coalisland, Co Tyrone. About 20,000 litres of fuel were seized there.

In the Monaghan raid Customs officers seized six vehicles, including what appeared to be a grain lorry but in fact had a tanker of laundered fuel concealed under the tarpaulin.

It is believed that the gang behind the diesel-laundering plant were planning to travel to Poland and from there arrange to import from Russia another consignment of bleaching earth to be used in yet more illegal laundering of fuel here.

Two men arrested by gardaí and taken to Carrickmacross Garda station for questioning about the diesel laundering have been released and gardaí confirmed that a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.