Drugs with an estimated street value of £3 million have been discovered in a lorry at Belfast harbour in what is one of the largest drugs seizures ever recorded in Northern Ireland.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) initially discovered cocaine and cannabis worth £1.8 million when the lorry was stopped at the harbour on February 12th.
Follow-up searches yielded an additional £1.2 million of drugs, which had been stashed under the floor of the trailer.
Det Insp Conor Sweeney from the PSNI's Organised Crime unit said the "very significant seizure" was "one of the largest single seizures that we have had".
He said it was detected as part of Operation Fusion, which specifically targeted the importation of drugs into ports and harbours by organised crime gangs. This has led to the seizure of drugs worth approximately £20 million in the last 14 months.
These large-scale importations, he said, were typically used to supply multiple organised crime gangs in Northern Ireland, including loyalist and republican paramilitary groups.
“It is terrifying to think of what that money could be used to fund, in terms of buying weaponry, being used to further exert their influence and grip over the local communities,” he said.
“To be able to make a seizure such as this and the other ones we have had in the past, it is not just hitting one organised crime gang, it is hitting multiple organised crime gangs.
"They have come in from outside of Northern Ireland, so that has been facilitated by organised crime gangs in other countries, including England and possibly further abroad."
One man has previously appeared in court on charges of possessing Class A and Class B drugs with intent to supply in relation to the seizure at Belfast Harbour. Additional reporting - PA