Organised crime in Republic worth at least €1.7bn annually

Narcotics trade, fraud and smuggling among primary drivers of black economy in State

In Ireland, rates of drug consumption are “relatively high” in an international context, an international study has revealed.

In Ireland, rates of drug consumption are “relatively high” in an international context, an international study has revealed.


Organised crime in the Republic has been worth at least €1.7 billion annually in recent years, a major international study funded by the European Commission has concluded.

The sum is bigger than the State’s total spend on An Garda Síochána of €1.4 billion this year.

The international research group, Transcrime, profiled the Irish crime scene – along with the underworld in other countries – in a project funded by the European Commission’s “prevention of and fight against crime programme”.

The Portfolio of Organised Crime in Europe report for the first time puts a monetary value on Irish organised crime.

The €1.7 billion annual valuation of organised crime in Ireland includes all aspects of the drug dealing along with the illicit cigarette trade, counterfeiting, fraud and cargo theft.

There was “high evidence” of the involvement of Irish, British and Chinese gangs along with republican paramilitaries in Irish for-profit organised crime.

And a second tier of criminal gangs included a range of African crime syndicates along with those from Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Georgia, “other Asian” and “other eastern European”.

Irish gangs were working closest with criminals from Great Britain, Spain and the Netherlands.

In Ireland, rates of drug consumption – from chronic addiction to infrequent recreational drug-taking – was “relatively high” in an international context.

‘Strategic transit country’

But rather than the drugs trade being based on supplying indigenous users, Ireland was “a strategic transit country for illicit drugs destined for the UK and other EU countries”.

The EC-funded report, which was published last year, says the herbal cannabis market was the biggest part of the Irish drugs trade in terms of users, and that the drugs were being grown within the country and also imported.

Most active in cultivating crops of cannabis, in grow-houses under intense artificial light, were Vietnamese and Cambodian gangs. Meanwhile, imported consignment’s came from Africa.

“As regards imported cannabis,” it notes, “Ireland’s remote west coasts provide strategic access for sea shipments, sometimes coming directly from Morocco. ”

While the revenue from cannabis was estimated at as low as €47 million annually, the cocaine market was valued at €100 million and the heroin market, because the street value of the drug was very high, was valued at €623 million.

The illegal cigarettes market in Ireland – involving counterfeit or smuggled cigarettes with no duties or VAT paid – is worth €277 million annually, or just over €5 million per week.

The value of counterfeit software sold in the Republic annually was estimated at €111 million and counterfeit medicines at €86 million annually. Fuel laundering was costing the exchequer €190 million.

The crime portfolio report draws an all data available to establish the maximum and minimum value for each crime type, along with the likely actually value.

In the drugs trade, for example, it has taken all available data from the Garda including the value of drug seizures. But it has also examined the price of illicit drugs on Irish streets and international studies of drug taking prevalence in determining the value of market for each drug type in the Republic.