Suspected crystal meth worth €32.8m seized in Cork originated with Mexican cartel, gardaí believe

Two Irish men arrested, firearms seized, after searches in Kerry and Cork targeting suspected Irish associates of Sinaloa Cartel featured in Netflix series Narcos

A consignment of synthetic drugs seized on Friday, believed to be crystal meth worth €32.8 million, was owned by a Mexican cartel and was transiting through the Republic of Ireland, gardaí believe. It is suspected the consignment, recovered in Cork Port, was ultimately destined for the Australian market.

Gardaí in Co Kerry and members of the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB) have identified several Irish suspects based in the Munster area who they believe have been working for the Sinaloa cartel. The Mexican-based crime group, once headed by ‘El Chapo’ Joaquin Guzman, is regarded as one of the world’s biggest cartels and featured in the Netflix series Narcos.

The drugs discovered in Cork were hidden in machinery that had been shipped in container freight into the deepwater berth in the lower harbour at Ringaskiddy. The initial intelligence about the drugs came from the Garda’s Kerry Divisional Drugs Unit. Members of that unit have been pursuing leads that came to light during a large drug seizure in another part of the Republic over a year ago.

Revenue’s Custom Service officers joined the operation with Kerry gardaí and the DOCB, beginning a search of the container in Cork Port on Thursday. It is understood power tools were used to cut open machinery in the container, with the drugs discovered inside on Friday morning.


The seizure - some 546kg in total - is one of the biggest seizures in the history of the State and would be by far the biggest ever seizure of the highly addictive crystal meth, if that substance is confirmed as expected.

Gardaí have long suspected a Kerry link with the Sinaloa cartel, and they believe the seizure of the drugs in Cork has effectively uncovered that link.

As well as the search in Cork Port, a number of residential and commercial addresses were searched on Friday, including a significant and well known business. During the course of the operation two firearms were also seized.

“A number of follow up searches were conducted in Kerry and Cork resulting in the arrests of two men,” Garda Headquarters said in a statement. “The men, both aged in their 40s are currently detained at Garda Stations in the Southern Region under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2007.”

That legislation is used when gardaí are targeting suspects in organised crime-related investigations. It allows for suspects to be detained for questioning, without charge, for up to seven days. It is understood both men were being held in Castleisland Garda station. The seized drugs were undergoing examination to confirm the nature of the find, though gardaí believe the consignment as a synthetic, most likely crystal meth.

One of the arrested men has a lengthy criminal record and has spent periods in prison, including one long sentence for serious crime. The other man is “from a very different background”, according to one source, and has business interests in the wider Munster area.

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Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times