Garda liaisons planned for South America to tackle cocaine importation

International network to expand to meet evolving nature of organised crime

The volume and purity of cocaine coming from countries such as Columbia has increased dramatically in recent years, according to Europol. Photograph: iStock

The volume and purity of cocaine coming from countries such as Columbia has increased dramatically in recent years, according to Europol. Photograph: iStock

 

Garda management is examining proposals to send liaison officers to South American where the bulk of cocaine in Ireland is sourced from.

Assistant Garda Commissioner (Special Crime Operations) John O’Driscoll said there are plans for the force to expand its network of officers assigned to liaise with foreign police forces in response to the increasingly international nature of organised crime.

Irish gangs, including the Kinahan organised crime group, currently operate as far afield as Australia and Dubai while nearly all of the cocaine sold in Ireland comes from South America and is trafficked across the Atlantic. The volume and purity of cocaine coming from countries such as Colombia has increased dramatically in recent years, according to Europol.

Speaking to RTÉ’s This Week programme, Mr O’Driscoll said the liaison officers could be assigned in 2020. Officers will also be sent to North America and the Middle East, he said.

The Garda already has liaison officers in several countries where Irish organised criminals operate such as the UK, France, Spain and the Netherlands. Others are also stationed in Lyon, France to liaise with Interpol and in the Hague in the Netherlands with Europol.

‘Significant effort’

The Assistant Commissioner, who oversees the national garda response to organised crime, said some Irish gangs have become “very powerful” but that the force has had significant success this year in arresting senior members.

The goal of the Garda is to ensure other gangs do not reach the same level, he said. Mr O’Driscoll pointed to the latest CSO figures showing a 33 per cent increase in homicide offences.

A recent report from Europol stated major Irish gangs are moving into rural areas and taking over the local drugs trade, a view which was contradicted by Mr O’Driscoll.

He said there is no “significant effort” by major gangs to insert themselves into the drugs trade outside Dublin but that there is a large degree of cooperation between groups to import and distribute drugs.

Regarding local policing, Mr O’Driscoll said “no go areas” do not exist for gardaí but conceded some areas “are more difficult to police than others”.

Armed support is sometimes required to police an area and this is “obviously not desirable,” he said, but such situations usually stabilise within a relatively short period of time.