Third-largest drug haul in State

Wed, Jun 27, 2012, 01:00

THE SEIZURE of 400kg of cocaine yesterday is the third biggest seizure of illegal drugs by the Irish authorities.

Officially valued at €32 million, but worth much more when bulked up with mixing agents, the consignment had been imported by a syndicate of Irish and foreign criminals.

It was being split into smaller loads for distribution when the joint Garda and Customs team moved in and arrested two suspects and recovered the drugs.

One of the men in custody last night is aged 31 and is from Cabra in north Dublin. He has no convictions for serious crime. Gardaí had him under surveillance for some time and they believe he was centrally involved in the Irish end of the international drugs smuggling operation.

The other man arrested is a 42-year-old from Nigeria who has been living in Ireland.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and his force, along with Revenue’s Customs service, were to be “greatly commended for the extraordinarily significant” drugs seizure.

“I express my deep appreciation and support for their work on my own behalf, that of the Government and, in particular, on behalf of communities who have to live with the evil which the deadly trade in illicit drugs causes.”

The drugs were imported in a container disguised as wooden flooring, which arrived in Dublin Port the week before last.

A Customs and Garda operation at the port uncovered the drugs in a container. However, rather than seizing the drugs immediately the container was resealed and left for collection.

When it was collected and driven away, it was placed under surveillance until it reached an industrial unit in Blanchardstown, west Dublin.

The Nigerian man arrested yesterday had allegedly collected some of the drugs and had driven away when he was stopped in Tallaght, west Dublin. His vehicle was searched and when 50kg of cocaine was found he was arrested.

Gardaí and Customs officers also raided the Blanchardstown unit yesterday where they found 350kg of cocaine. The suspect from Cabra was arrested in Leixlip, Co Kildare.

Both suspects were being detained last night under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act 1996 at Clondalkin Garda station.

Garda sources said the size of the consignment suggested that not all of the drugs were destined for the Irish market. Demand for cocaine from recreational users has fallen sharply in the past three to four years because disposable incomes have decreased. Gardaí believe the domestic drugs market is simply not large enough to absorb such a large quantity of cocaine.

The Garda investigation, led by the Garda National Drugs Unit, is still trying to establish where some of the haul was destined for. However, they believe it was most likely bound for the much bigger UK drugs market.

An international crime gang that includes some Irishmen and has been operating in Spain and Holland for many years is suspected of supplying the drugs to the Dublin-based criminals.

The consignment is not as big as the 1,500kg of cocaine found as it was being smuggled ashore off a boat at Dunlough Bay, Co Cork, in 2007 or another 1,500kg found by the Irish authorities off Mizen Head in 2008. However, they were being smuggled by British gangs and were not destined for Ireland.