One of the State's largest ever finds of prison contraband, including mobile phones and drugs, has been seized as it was being smuggled into Mountjoy Prison in Dublin.
Sources familiar with the gang situation in the prison said it was strongly suspected the delivery, which included more than 20 phones and two bags of suspeced cocaine, was intended for inmates linked to the Kinahan cartel.
Members of the Kinahan cartel are the dominant faction in Mountjoy Prison.
A man in his 40s was arrested following the discovery and is being held at Mountjoy Garda Station.
It is understood some of the phones had been marked with the initials or nicknames of prisoners and prison staff and gardaí were studying those names to determine who they were for.
Security sources said many of the usual smuggling methods in Irish jails had been curtailed because of restrictions introduced due to Covid-19.
“It looks like with the supply (of drugs and phones) having dried up a lot because of Covid-19, they were looking to get a big consignment into the jail all in one go and maybe taking the kind of risk they wouldn’t normally take,” a source said.
The Irish Times understands from informed sources the consignment was hidden in pallets of supplies that were being delivered to the jail.
Initial indications are that prison authorities received intelligence the contraband was being smuggled within the normal delivery systems that supply all aspects of the prison with the goods it needs to operate, including laundry, food, drink and other supplies.
Members of Mountjoy’s operational support group - a team dedicated to preventing smuggling of phones, drugs and weapons - searched a delivery of goods and found the contraband on a pallet.
A large number of mobile phones, believed to be more than 20, were discovered along with a large number of spare SIM cards.
Two bags of white powder were also found and security sources said while it was believed to be cocaine, testing was required before that could be confirmed.
Vials of drugs believed to steroids were found along with about 800 grams of herbal cannabis, worth approximately €16,000 on the street but significantly more in a prison setting, was also found.
A number of boxes containing about 10,000 pills were also discovered and these were set to undergo testing to determine what they are.
Bottles of alcoholic spirits and a number of Fitbits - smart watches to record work outs - were also found during the search of the pallet of goods that had been brought onto the prison campus in a delivery van.
Garda Headquarters said a criminal investigation into the seizure was unde way.
“One male, aged in his 40s, has been arrested in relation to this matter and is currently detained in Mountjoy Garda station under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act,” it said.
The Irish Prison Service said the seizure included a substantial amount of drugs including a large quantity of tablets, alcohol and mobile phones.
The seizure had been “provided to An Garda Síochana for analysis and is the largest single seizure of contraband into an Irish Prison”.
Director general of the prison service, Caron McCaffrey, said Tuesday morning’s operation was “a very significant result for Mountjoy Prison and our operational support group” in their efforts to prevent “dangerous contraband” from entering the prison.
“Given the scale of the contraband seized it is highly possible that these drugs, if they had made their way into the prison population, could have had a devastating impact on the prison population including the potential for the loss of life by overdose,” Ms McCaffrey said.
Deputy general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association Jim Mitchell, said the scale of the consignment of contraband seized reflected the challenges staff faced every day in prisons.
“This seizure represents a significant drugs find and highlights the outstanding work that our members are carrying out on a daily basis while also striving to keep Covid-19 from entering our jails,” he said.
“Our members are often the unseen and forgotten of our frontline services but work of this magnitude on the coalface of our prisons reiterates the ongoing challenge for them on all our behalf.”