Kinahan cartel linked to €10m cocaine seizure in Costa Rica

Drugs hidden in pineapples were due to be loaded on a cargo ship destined for Cork

The cargo ship ‘Polar Chile’ was about to depart from Costa Rica en route to Cork when it was boarded and searched and the drugs found.

The cargo ship ‘Polar Chile’ was about to depart from Costa Rica en route to Cork when it was boarded and searched and the drugs found.


Cocaine valued at about €10 million and believed to be owned by the Kinahan cartel has been seized in Central America.

It was being smuggled in sea freight, destined for Cork, and hidden in pineapples.

Some 133kg of cocaine had already been packed onto the ship, the Polar Chile cargo ship, destined for the port of Cork.

The ship was about to depart Moin Port in Limón, Costa Rica, when it was boarded and searched. The intelligence-based operation was conducted last Wednesday.

However, news of the operation only emerged on Sunday. Garda sources said the main line of inquiry was that the drugs were owned by the Kinahan cartel.

They have been based in southern Spain for almost 15 years and built one of the biggest drugs wholesale businesses in Europe.

They have supplied the Irish and British markets, as well as selling to organised crime groups in some Continental European countries.

However, after a number of murders in Spain were linked to the cartel and it became embroiled in a feud, which has mainly unfolded in Ireland, the Garda and Spanish police have escalated their investigations into the cartel.

Against that background, and because they are effectively in hiding from their rivals, the Kinahans have left Spain and have been based in Dubai.

However, they have continued to traffic drugs and continued to use their favoured contacts in, and transit routes through, Spain.

The discovery of such a large quantity of cocaine linked to the gang so close to the source countries for the drug in South America is unusual.

Most of the consignments seized from the cartel have been found in Spain and Ireland. The ship the cocaine was found on regularly travels between the Caribbean, Central America and Europe.

Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, who is in charge of the Garda’s Special Crime Operations, confirmed the Garda and Revenue Commissioners were involved in the international investigation.

The agencies were investigating the role of Irish criminals in the effort to import the drugs into the State from South America.

A Garda statement confirmed detectives in Dublin were working on the case.

“The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau is undertaking an investigation with a significant international dimension,” it said.

“(The investigation) arises from the seizure, at Moin Port in Limón, Costa Rica, on August 14th by the Drug Control Police of the Ministry of Public Security, in Costa Rica, of an estimated one-hundred and thirty-three (133) kilograms of cocaine.

“(It) was concealed in a cargo of fruit which was destined for Ireland. The cocaine was discovered in a container on board a ship named Polar Chile. The cocaine seized has a potential value of €10 million.”

Separately, in an unrelated case a man using an Irish passport has been arrested by police in Spain in connection with the drug seizure there.

Police seized almost seven tonnes of cannabis with an estimated street value of €18 million near Marbella.

Eleven people - nine men and two women - were arrested, including British, Moroccans, Spanish and Irish nationals. Police said five of those arrested were either British or Irish citizens.

It is alleged the gang was using boats to import cannabis into southern Spain from Morocco.

Officers say the gang was led by a British person who was using his home in San Pedro de Alcantara near the resort of Marbella to store the drugs.

The identity of the man who presented an Irish passport as identification was not immediately clear. The drugs were not being linked to the Kinahan cartel.