Cork crystal meth seizure suspects’ Garda detention now nearing end

Two men can be held for seven days maximum after their arrest in wake of €32.8m drugs bust linked to Mexican cartel

Gardaí have been granted a final 48-hour period to question two men detained last Friday over the discovery of suspected crystal meth at Cork Port.

The suspects must be charged or released by Friday morning at the latest even if detectives use the full seven-day period to question them under anti-gang legislation.

Gardaí working on the case were expected to liaise closely with the Director of Public Prosecution’s office on Thursday to determine if the men have a case to answer.

The consignment of more than half a tonne of suspected crystal meth has been valued at €32.8 million and is believed to be owned by the Mexican Sinaloa cartel.


The drugs were shipped from Mexico to Cork and were due to be exported from Ireland to another jurisdiction, with the intended final destination believed to be Australia.

The men arrested following the seizure in Cork are Irish nationals aged in their 40s and based in Co Kerry.

They are understood to have been present in court on Wednesday when gardaí applied and were granted an additional two days to question them.

One of the men has come to the Garda’s attention frequently in relation to serious crime in the Munster area, and has spent time in prison. However, the other suspect, who has a significant profile in some circles in Co Kerry, has not previously come to the force’s attention.

Both men were arrested last Friday during extensive searches in Cork and Kerry after the drugs were found in a container at Cork Port in the course of an intelligence-led operation.

The two men were arrested under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act, which allows suspects in gang-related crimes to be detained for up to seven days without charge.

In addition to the drugs, gardaí also seized two firearms during their searches, which were aided by the Defence Forces.

Several business and residential premises were searched in Cork and Kerry after the discovery of the drugs. Those searches were extended last Sunday to a commercial premises in Waterford City.

Gardaí now strongly suspect an Irish-Mexican citizen, with strong links to Kerry, had recruited a small group of men in the county to act as the cartel’s agents. This man has progressed up the ranks of the Sinaloa cartel in recent years, as other senior figures were jailed or fell ill. He is now regarded as a person of significant influence in the group.

Although he is believed to have been spending time in Mexico of late, he was resident in Spain for a period, during which he is believed to have been involved in the cartel’s European operations.

Gardaí believe he used his long-standing contacts in Kerry to cultivate local agents willing to work for the notorious cartel, once headed by “El Chapo” Joaquin Guzman. It is regarded as one of the world’s biggest crime groups and featured in the Netflix series Narcos.

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Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times