Gardaí contact French police to try to identify who brought boat to Cork for use by drug gang

It is believed a group of five men set off in the 10-metre RIB from Tragumna slip late on Monday night or in the early hours of Tuesday morning

The scene at Tragumna, Co Cork, where gardaí found a Rigid Inflatable Boat inside the trailer of a lorry that they believe drug traffickers had used to try to reach a ship offshore

Gardaí have requested the assistance of French police to try identify who brought a small boat to Cherbourg for transport to Ireland where it was used by a suspected drugs gang to try collect a consignment of cocaine from South America.

Detectives from west Cork have been in touch via Europol with police in Normandy to secure CCTV footage from Cherbourg ferry terminal on March 5th where it is believed an articulated lorry with the Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) in its trailer boarded a ferry bound for Rosslare.

The lorry disembarked from the ferry in Rosslare on March 6th and gardaí believe it was driven to Northern Ireland. Gardaí asked the PSNI to carry out a search of a commercial premises in Northern Ireland where it is believed the lorry was stored for a number of days before heading to Co Cork, arriving in Tragumna near Skibbereen on the evening of Monday, March 11th.

The RIB was unloaded and launched from the slipway in Tragumna under cover of darkness by members of the organised crime group who all met up for the first time in west Cork after a number of them had flown into Dublin Airport over the weekend of March 8th-March 10th.


According to one experienced observer of drug smuggling operations, the gang made a mistake in deciding to launch the boat from Tragumna as the articulated lorry attracted attention in the small coastal village.

“If they had brought an articulated lorry into Castletownbere or Union Hall or any of the main fishing ports, nobody would have paid a blind bit of notice because there are articulated lorries into these places all the time to collect catches so another artic wouldn’t have stood out,” he said.

“Even if they had launched from Baltimore or Schull, again nobody would have noticed it but Tragumna is a small holiday village with narrow windy roads and no fish being landed there so an articulated lorry going down there last week stood out immediately.”

Gardaí believe ship off Cork coast was involved in planned delivery of cocaine to drug gangOpens in new window ]

It is believed a group of five Spaniards and a Serbian man set off in the 10-metre RIB from Tragumna slip late on Monday night of last week or in the early hours of Tuesday morning to rendezvous with a ship carrying a large consignment of cocaine.

However, they failed to meet the ship as planned. They stayed at sea for two days trying to rendezvous with the ship and when they failed to make contact, aborted the mission and returned to Tragumna early on Thursday morning.

Gardaí had been maintaining surveillance at Tragumna after a concerned citizen reported suspicious activity around a camper van there around 4.30am on Tuesday. When a local woman rang gardaí around 6.30am on Thursday to report more suspicious activity, officers moved in.

They arrested three men – two Dutch nationals and a Spaniard – by a Land Rover Discovery near Tragumna slip. A fourth man, a 37-year-old from Co Fermanagh, was also arrested as he was about to drive away in the lorry.

Gardaí investigating group suspected of smuggling cocaine into Cork search properties in DublinOpens in new window ]

Gardaí also arrested the five Spaniards and the Serb in Leap village after they left Tragumna in a Zephyr camper van which had been hired in Northern Ireland. Gardaí have also requested assistance from the PSNI in finding out who hired the camper van and when.

According to one experienced mariner, the gang may have invested upwards of €500,000 in acquiring and equipping the RIB which was fitted with three 300-horsepower petrol outboard engines which would enable the boat to hit speeds of more than 40 knots.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times